Relieve rashes and hives

  • 24 Jul 2014
  • Reading time 7 mins
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Hives are raised, white welts on the skin, surrounded by redness. The swelling and redness are caused by the release of one of the body’s allergy chemicals, histamine. There are many factors which can trigger such a reaction – from a scratch, heat or cold to a number of foods, chemicals or additives. So the first step towards controlling it is detecting and eliminating the trigger.

Look for reactions to chemicals

The most common cause of hives is a reaction to medication – particularly antibiotics (including penicillin) and aspirin. Unfortunately, penicillin is sometimes present in foods and drinks such as milk, meat and poultry, and allergic reactions have been traced back to these ‘hidden’ antibiotics. If you do come up in a rash or hives when you are on medication, contact your doctor to check whether this may be the cause. If it is, you will both have to decide whether the need for drugs outweighs the discomfort of hives.

Salicylates are aspirin-like compounds found naturally in many foods. Hives sufferers who are sensitive to aspirin must look carefully at their salicylate intake. Of all foods, fruits have the highest levels, especially berries, pineapple and dried fruit. I would also avoid all juices, as they can contain concentrated salicylates. High levels have been found in liquorice and mint, including toothpastes, chewing gum and teas. Read the ingredients list of your foods and cosmetics to ensure you avoid those containing salicylates.

Our food is increasingly contaminated with chemicals that are used to colour, flavour, sweeten, stabilise and preserve it. One of the most common food additives that causes reactions is tartrazine, also known as E102, which is used as a dye to colour foods orange and yellow.

Numerous studies have shown that additive-free diets are very helpful to people with hives. Eating fresh food, as close to its natural form as possible, is the main way to avoid the potential hazards of commercially prepared foods. Eating organically grown or produced food is another way of avoiding added chemicals.

Test for, and avoid, food allergens

A common cause of hives is a reaction to foods. The foods that are most likely to bring on hives are: milk, fish, meat, eggs, beans and nuts, although any food can do so. Others to consider are chocolate, cured meats, chicken, citrus fruits and shellfish. See the article Hidden Food Allergies to find out how to test and avoid potential food allergens or intolerances.

Alcohol aggravates any allergic reaction and is therefore best avoided or minimised. Avoiding suspect foods is only part of the solution. It is also important to make sure the digestive tract is working well. ......

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