Coming down with an itchy rash or bad case of hives while traveling can be a pretty miserable experience. You need relief and you need it fast. Hives are pretty easy to figure out. If you’ve just eaten something unusual and you break out with red, itchy patches of skin – typically on the chest, arm, or legs – it’s a good chance you’ve got hives. If you’re just in from the sun, taking an unfamiliar medicine, or under a great deal of stress, and those same areas are covered with red, swollen areas that itch intensely, yes – it’s probably hives.
As with other allergic reactions, when the body perceives a threat, it releases histamines. Histamines cause itching, swelling, and redness. Our bodies can even interpret environmental factors like illness and emotional stress as an enemy attack. It’s important to be cautious the first time you get hives and itchy rashes because they can be one of the first symptoms of anaphylactic shock.
Finding The Culprit
Most cases of hives can be traced to one (or even more than one) of the factors below:
NUTS – peanuts, walnuts, or Brazil nuts
SEAFOOD – shrimp, clams, other shellfish
MEDICATIONS – penicillin, flu vaccines, tetanus shots
FOODS – strawberries, milk, wheat
THE GREAT OUTDOORS – grass, poison ivy, poison sumac
INSECT BITES/STINGS – bees, ants, wasps, hornets
ENVIRONMENTAL PRESSURES – cold, heat, sunshine, latex
EMOTIONAL/PHYSICAL STRESS – infections, exercise, travel stress
What To Do For Relief
1. First, and most important, you (or your doctor) must identify what is causing the problem and get away from it as quickly as possible. If you’ve just eaten a particular food or taken a new medicine, stop ingesting it immediately and watch carefully for further signs of allergic reaction. If it’s a medication, call your doctor so she can advise you on stopping it safely. If the sun is the problem, keep covered or stay in the shade until the bumps subside.
2. Avoid exposing hives to heat, or rubbing the itchy areas. When the rash is warmed or rubbed, the more histamine may be released.
3. For fast relief while you’re deciding on the root cause, apply cold, moistened compresses to the itchy area. A cup of plain oatmeal in the bathwater can also provide soothing relief. The colloid (or glue-like substance) in oatmeal starch acts as skin protectant, adds moisture, and soothes irritated and itchy skin.
4. Keep some Benadryl (diphenhydramine) handy. Diphenhydramine works as an antihistamine to stop an allergic reaction in its tracks. This is also the medicine your doctor may recommend if you suffer from sinus allergies. In oral form (tablets or capsules) it will make you sleepy, so be careful if taking it when you need to be alert.
5. Hydrocortisone cream or ointment is very effective for controlling the itch. We always carry a small tube with us when traveling!
6. If it is your first case of hives and they seem unusually severe or long-lasting, it’s a good idea to visit the nearest medical clinic as soon as possible. Some severe cases of hives will require stronger medicines like the corticosteroid prednisone to bring relief.
7. Hives and itchy rashes that don’t respond to antihistamines or corticosteroids and are hindering your ability to breathe may need to be quickly treated with a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline). This medication quickly opens the breathing passages and could save your life. Those with confirmed severe allergic reactions should always travel with a spare Epi-pen type auto injector because you never know when you might be hiking through a nasty patch of poison ivy!
Happy, Healthy Travels!
As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.
More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.
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