How to Treat Hives on an Infant
Most cases of hives in babies are mild and go away on their own, so treatment generally centers around making the child more comfortable. Urticaria, or hives, produces multiple mosquito bite-like bumps that itch and swell, usually as a result of exposure to an allergen. In older children and adults, treatment often involves giving an oral dose of the antihistamine diphenhydramine, but this medication isn’t recommended in children under the age of 1 year, so plan on using natural alternatives to relieve the topical irritation. Always contact your infant’s doctor before attempting treatment, especially if your infant has a history of eczema or other skin problems.
Pinpoint the cause of the hives, if possible. Think about any changes you have made in your baby’s routine or diet during the last 24 to 36 hours. Common causes of urticaria in babies include foods, topical irritants, insect bites, medication and being overheated.
Eliminate possible urticaria causes from your baby’s environment. Discontinue your use of topical irritants, such as soaps, lotions and fabric softeners, especially ones that you recently started using on your baby’s body or clothing. If you breastfeed and recently added a new food to your diet, such as cow’s milk, soy, peanuts or eggs, consider eliminating it from your diet. Check with your child’s doctor if you have trouble identifying the cause of the hives or if you suspect a medication may be to blame.
Minimize itching and irritation arising from the hives by providing topical relief. Dab calamine lotion on the raised welts or lay cool, moist compresses on top of them, especially if the welts cover only a small portion of your baby’s body. Blend 1 cup of plain oatmeal in a food processor; add the powdered oatmeal to a tub of lukewarm water and let your baby soak in it for 20 to 30 minutes. Special substances in the oatmeal promote healing by protecting the skin and reducing topical irritation and swelling, says Lisa Chavis, registered pharmacist and author of “Ask Your Pharmacist.”
Clothe your baby in loose cotton clothing until the hives have gone away, a sometimes slow process that could take multiple days. This covers the bumps without rubbing them excessively, which minimizes irritation while preventing your infant from excessive scratching.
Watch closely for signs of a more serious allergic reaction -- called anaphylactic shock -- that occasionally develops in babies after the appearance of hives. Possible symptoms typically develop rapidly and could include severe facial swelling, wheezing, difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fainting. If you notice any of these symptoms or your baby experiences any breathing trouble, called 911 or take her to an emergency room right away for immediate medical attention.
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- “Gentle Baby Care”; Elizabeth Pantley; 2003
- “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Food Allergies”; Dr. Lee Freund; 2003
- “Ask Your Pharmacist”; Lisa Chavis, R.Ph.; 2002
- “Pediatric Emergency Medicine”; Dr. Jill Baren, et al.; 2007