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Medical Causes of Hives on the Scalp (and How to Reduce Swelling)

Linda White

According to American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, up to 20% of us will develop hives at some point in our lives. There are many medical causes of hives on the scalp, so it’s vital to determine the underlying reason(s) for the problem.

Hives (urticaria) is a skin condition that can arise on your head (or body) at any time. It leads to red welts that can be itchy. In layman’s terms, hives are a breakout rash that occurs when your body experiences an allergic reaction (an overload of histamine) to ‘something’ that it dislikes.

Here are some facts about hives:

  • Hives are more common among women than men.
  • They tend to change size rapidly and move around quite a bit.
  • Hives often disappear and then reappear in another area of the body.
  • An individual hive usually lasts no longer than 24 hours.
  • An outbreak that looks alarming can be gone within hours.
  • Hives are not contagious to others.

In this guide, we’re going to examine the reasons why hives appear on the scalp. You’ll also learn the facts and how it can be successfully treated (if necessary). Finally, we’ll look at skin conditions that are confused for hives.

What Are the Different Types of Hives?

Hives appear when histamine and other allergy-inducing compounds are released from cells that are found in the skin. Histamine causes fluid to leak from the local blood vessels, leading to the swelling. This results in hives on the scalp and other parts of the body.

Hives fall into two categories:

  1. Acute urticaria – known as ordinary hives. These tend to go away on their own.
  2. Chronic urticaria – more severe and can last for up to eight weeks.

Since hives are so common and acute urticaria, by definition, resolves itself in most cases, physicians do not spend much time evaluating the reason for hives. This would be different if your scalp were to become infected or irritated and cause further problems.

What Are the Risk Factors for Acute Urticaria?

As mentioned previously, there is no single cause for ordinary hives. A breakout can occur for many reasons. But fully understanding the risk factors, if any, is vital for any skin condition.

Some scalp hives can be caused by specific medications. This happens when the medication has been taken for a few weeks before the breakout.

If a medication is implicated, it’s essential that you stop taking it straight away. This helps to ascertain the precise cause.

There are no major risk factors or concerns. It’s only if hives become infected, bleed or seep that medical assistance should be sought.

What Are the Causes of Chronic Hives?

Chronic hives last for longer than ordinary hives. In some cases, medical professionals may perform lab testing to get to the root of the problem.

To establish what’s causing chronic hives on the scalp, it may be required that you strip back on all consumables. This involves cutting out certain types of medication or food so that you can ascertain whether they are acting as a trigger or not.

In some cases, there are rare forms of chronic urticaria. This can be produced when the patient produces antibodies to fight against molecules on the surface of their own mast cells. There are tests available to identify this type of hives (if required).

Heat (Physical Urticarial)

Heat hives occur through everyday environmental stimuli such as sunlight, water, cold, heat, and exercise. Dermographism, literally meaning ‘skin writing,’ is a common cause of physical urticaria.

This is an exaggerated form of what happens to anyone when their skin is scratched or rubbed. A red welt forms at the site of the scratch and can be painful and itchy. These are raised, itchy red welts where adjacent flares appear wherever the skin is scratched or clothing rub against the skin.

Two types of itching can occur as a result of hives. The different types of itching (pruritus) are split into two distinct areas:

  • Generalised – where itching occurs over the whole body.
  • Localized – where itching only occurs in a particular area.

Stress-Related Hives

They can be due to chronic stress or tension in your life. It’s the stress that causes your body’s immune system to falter. They appear as red, raised, and swollen areas on the skin that seem to appear suddenly. Stress hives are also known medically as a stress rash or stress bumps.

Stress-induced hives tend to be incredibly itchy, and some people report experiencing a burning or stinging sensation wherever they appear. They will go away by themselves once your stress levels have settled down. Obviously, you’ll need to make lifestyle adjustments for that to happen.

When you’re stressed, your body sends histamine into the body to fight off what is affecting you – the stress! According to WebMD, your body experiences an allergic reaction to stress, and this is why hives on the scalp appear.

Dietary Choices

A diet that lacks the essential nutrients and vitamins needed by your skin can lead to hives. So, it’s suggested that you eat a well-balanced and healthy diet to maintain your overall health.

Fatty acids such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and salmon, along with reducing coffee intake and alcohol, can be highly beneficial. And keeping yourself adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water is advantageous to the skin on your scalp. It prevents other scalp conditions, such as a dry scalp.

You may be sensitive to one of the foods listed below:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts or tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans.
  • Soy
  • Wheat and other grains with gluten (barley, rye, and oats.)
  • Fish and shellfish

Cut out any food on this list that may be causing a flare-up. You may want to try each food group at a time to best establish the reason.

General Hygiene Problems

If you don’t keep on top of your hygiene by washing and conditioning your hair regularly, chances are, your scalp will begin to suffer the effects over time. Because of the build-up of environmental dirt, oils, and harsh beauty products, hives can readily occur.

Poor hygiene can result in short-term scalp problems. If you don’t think that you’re cleaning your hair enough, consider creating a weekly schedule. A schedule will mean that you are more likely to stick to a routine and keep your hair clean.

Some tips include the following:

  • Using a good conditioner that moisturizes your hair.
  • Using quality shampoos, such as Christina Moss Naturals Organic Shampoo.
  • Drink more water to keep your scalp hydrated.
  • Consider wearing a hat in the cold weather to lock in moisture.

Insect Bites and Stings

Stings and bites from insects are common. Usually, a breakout of hives caused by an insect bite only affects that specific area. However, it can spread, which is a common characteristic.

Insects that are most troublesome include:

  • Coleoptera (beetles)
  • Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)
  • Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps)
  • Diptera (true flies)

Hives are the most common systemic symptom of an insect bite or sting. They appear as irregular, raised, red blotchy areas on the skin. With an insect bite, they tend to be very itchy.

Outdoor Life

There are many things found lurking in nature that can cause skin problems. Nature is beautiful, but it also holds many dangers. If you are prone to sensitive skin and breakouts of hives anywhere on your body, the outdoors could be what’s causing it.

Plants, leaves and certain types of fungi can all cause allergic reactions. Before you head out for a walk, you may wish to take an antihistamine.

Chemicals and Specific Items

The following list of items are known agitators:

  • A laundry detergent. For example, the strong detergents used to wash bedsheets and towels at hotels can be problematic.
  • Chemicals from shampoo, conditioner or shower gel.
  • Fabric from clothing or hats.
  • Hair extensions, wigs or jewelry.
  • Deodorant or perfume.

Internal Disease

Believe it or not, there is a chance that you could be allergic to your own sweat. If you experience an outbreak of hives on your scalp, or anywhere else on your body for that matter, you may want to consider taking an antihistamine before doing anything that’s physically demanding.

If you have chronic hives, you may want to ask your doctor or medical professional about getting tested for the antigen ‘heliobacter pylori’. Many individuals go undiagnosed and don’t realize that hives are one of the primary symptoms.

What is Helicobacter Pylori?

It is a common type of bacteria that is found in the digestive tract.

According to Dr. Eugene  Tan of Waikato Hospital, Helicobacter pylori tend to attack the stomach lining and can cause ulcers and have other knock-on effects. Usually harmless, the bacteria are responsible for the majority of ulcers found in the stomach and small intestine.

Additionally, the most commo0n symptom of this bacteria is chronic hives on the scalp.

how long does hives last?

When Should I see My Doctor?

As long as you don’t have an underlying long-term medical issue or infection, hives will clear up on its own over time.

You should consider visiting your doctor if your scalp becomes:

  • Sore and red
  • Dry and flaky
  • It’s constantly breaking out
  • Scabbed, spotty or bleeding
  • So uncomfortable that you are losing sleep or are distracted from your daily routine.
  • It leads to embarrassment and anxiety.
  • You suspect that your skin is infected.
  • The condition refuses to go away without treatment.

How to Treat Your Hives Effectively

The goal of treating ordinary hives is to relieve the symptoms while allowing your body to heal itself. The most commonly used treatment is an antihistamine. Most antihistamines are available without a prescription at local pharmacies. But, taking these tablets can lead to drowsiness.

They can be taken up to three times a day. However, because they cause drowsiness, it is often advised that they are taken at bedtime. Those who take them should be especially careful and be sure they are fully alert before driving or participating in other activities requiring mental concentration.

Take a note of the tips below if you want to keep your scalp hive free;

  • Use a natural, chemical-free shampoo
  • Rinse with apple cider vinegar (heavily diluted to avoid irritation)
  • Rinse with lemon juice (heavily diluted to prevent irritation)
  • Exfoliate with baking soda
  • Keep hair detangled.

Additionally, massaging with essential oils or some light, chemical-free cream can also be beneficial. Alternatively, use a cold compress to take the heat out of your scalp. If your scalp breaks out after using a particular product, you should ensure that you avoid it in the future.

When you have hives on the scalp, it can be an uncomfortable and itchy sensation. It is essential that you take great care when it comes to washing your hair, particularly the skin surrounding your hairline.

To prevent flare-ups and aggravation, consider using a herbal or home remedy. Avoid using shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products that are full of chemicals. Alternatively, use products that are as natural as possible.

Your scalp is a sensitive part of your body at the best of times. It’s, therefore, essential that you treat it with products that are kind to skin.

What Conditions Look Like Hives?

The skin is our body’s largest organ. It can also be sensitive and react adversely to unusual substances that it’s not used to. While various other rashes may look like similar to hives, they most likely aren’t associated in any way and should be treated differently.

Most other rashes and skin conditions cause different symptoms that vary in severity. In extreme conditions, certain rashes may need to have a small specimen of skin removed and examined under the microscope. This is known as a biopsy.

Can you get hives from anxiety?

Other Commons Scalp Complaints

These include:

  • Scalp folliculitis
  • Seborrheic keratosis
  • Cradle cap
  • Dandruff
  • Natural build up on the scalp.

Be Aware and Note Down Your Break Outs

Is your scalp breaking out regularly? A severe breakout on the scalp can come out of nowhere and at any time. But, if you notice a certain level of regularity with your breakouts, there could be an underlying reason.

Keep a note of when and where the breakouts take place (if in other places than your scalp). Due to heat at night, your scalp may be a lot itchier than it is during the day. Before your head hits the pillow, have a shower or bath. Wash and detangle your hair as this can be soothing.

Knowing when and why your scalp breaks out can be helpful in resolving the issue.

Few things are more distracting than an itchy and blotchy scalp. If you take the time to establish the cause, you’ll be able to choose the right remedy. Conducting your own research will allow you to speak to your doctor with a greater understanding about hives on the scalp.

Copyright 2018 by DryScalpGone.