Doctors’ Remedies for Itching & Hives

Itchy skin rashes, and the raised, bumpy version of rash called hives, can occur from allergic reactions, excessive heat, or even as a response to stress in some individuals. Rashes from insects or plants (e.g., poison ivy) are usually treated with standard lotions and creams available in pharmacies, and hives may resolve on their own in a matter of hours or days, depending on the cause. When home remedies and over-the-counter treatments fail to resolve the rash, patients may turn to their family doctors for stronger solutions.


Allergic responses are caused by an increase in histamine in the body. Histamine release is the source of hay fever symptoms, and it causes the red, itchy rash and hives in response to irritating contacts as well. If a patient has tried over-the-counter antihistamine drugs and the rash remains, prescription options may be necessary. One example is hydroxyzine (Atarax), which works on the nervous system to decrease muscle constriction and increase sedation. In addition, it has potent antihistamine effects and relieves itchiness and bumpy hives. Atarax is taken by mouth at doses of 25 mg up to three times daily for treatment of short-term itching.


Corticosteroids are prescription drugs given by mouth, on the skin or under the skin as an injection. These drugs mimic the body’s response to reduce inflammation (swelling). Corticosteroids applied directly to a rash or hives area can soothe the irritated skin, reduce swelling and redness and minimize the itchy sensation; the benefit of topical use is that side effects in the body are low. When rashes or hives do not respond to topical medicine, a high dose of corticosteroids by mouth for 1 week or injected once may provide enough of an anti-inflammatory surge effect to completely heal the itching and hives.

Oatmeal Bath

To supplement prescription treatments or even before these drugs are necessary, health professionals may recommend treatments to soothe the skin and lower the risk of infection caused by scratching a rash or hives area. Although cool compresses are helpful, colloidal oatmeal baths (e.g., Aveeno) are highly effective as well. Using one packet (approximately 2 to 3 cups of ground oatmeal) in a full warm bath disperses the powder to provide a silky film on the skin. The film calms irritation and covers the itchy area to moisturize the skin. Oatmeal baths can be used up to three times daily to provide maximum relief.