How to Get Rid of Hives: Topical Treatments

Urticaria Treatment

Hives, known medically as urticaria, are red, itchy bumps that appear on the skin. They often go away on their own but sometimes require medications to provide relief as they can be very uncomfortable. Additionally, hives can be long-term or chronic, coming and going for months or even years.

This article will provide an overview of topical treatments for hives, including how they are applied, possible side effects, and more.

Woman scratching her back - stock photo

PonyWang / Getty Images

Topical Treatments for Hives

Hives can be treated at home with over-the-counter (OTC) medications or with medications prescribed by a healthcare professional. Some are taken by mouth, while others are applied as a cream or lotion on the skin.

These medications do not permanently cure hives, but they can help to:

  • Reduce itching
  • Make people with hives more comfortable
  • Help hives clear up

Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion is spread on the area of skin affected by hives to relieve the itch. It is available over the counter, meaning a prescription is not required. In addition to soothing the skin, calamine lotion also has a cooling effect, which makes it especially helpful when treating hives associated with heat.

Hydrocortisone Cream

Hydrocortisone cream is a type of medication called a steroid that is applied to the skin. Steroids, or corticosteroids, work by reducing the swelling of hives. This treatment option is available OTC in lower doses and with a prescription for higher doses.

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) Cream

Benadryl cream (diphenhydramine) is a type of medication called an antihistamine. Histamine is a chemical in the body that leads to hives. Antihistamines block the histamine to treat the reaction.

This nonprescription medication is also available in pill or liquid forms to be taken by mouth. Benadryl is a first-generation antihistamine, meaning it can make people sleepy, so the cream can be an advantage over the oral form because it does not have this effect in most cases.

Aczone (dapsone) is a type of medication called an anti-infective, which is used to treat infections or prevent them from occurring. It is also an anti-inflammatory medication and helps to reduce the reaction and swelling of hives. This medication is available in pill form to treat hives. The topical form has been approved to treat acne.

Side Effects

The side effects of topical treatments for hives depend on the medication. While side effects are much less likely with topical medications compared to the oral versions, like drowsiness that can come with antihistamine use, they are still possible.

For example, topical corticosteroids can lead to more hair growing in the area treated, or they can make the skin condition worse. Reactions can vary in different people.

Side Effects of Topical Treatments

  • Acne or rash
  • Burning or stinging of eyes or open skin
  • Increase in symptoms
  • More hair growth
  • Redness
  • Skin irritation
  • Spreading of infection
  • Thinning of skin

Effectiveness of Topical Treatments

Topical treatments for hives are intended to lessen the reaction and relieve the symptoms until they go away, not cure the condition permanently. They can be effective at providing relief from symptoms depending on the person and the severity of the reaction.

However, topical treatments are not always enough. At times, multiple medications (topical and other) are used together.


Topical treatments for hives are not always a good idea. For example, they should not be used if the hives are in a sensitive area or if the skin is open, and some medications are only recommended for people above certain ages. Additionally, just like oral medications, dosing differs among individuals. Corticosteroids need to be measured and applied in safe amounts.

Lotions or creams should not be used:

  • On hives located on the face
  • Near an infected area
  • If there is an open wound or open skin

Other Treatment Options

Topical treatments are not the only way to address hives. In some cases, this may not be enough to control the symptoms. Anyone experiencing long-term hives, severe discomfort, or any signs of severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, should seek medical care right away.

Call 911 or seek medical care right away if you or someone you know is experiencing signs of a severe allergic reaction such as:

In addition to topical treatment options, other treatments for hives include:

  • Determining the cause and preventing the reaction
  • Medications that are taken by mouth
  • Applying something cold to the skin
  • Wearing clothing that is loose and breathable
  • Managing stress and practicing relaxation


Hives, also known by the medical term urticaria, is a skin condition that involves red, itchy bumps. There is no permanent cure, but treatment options are available to manage the reaction and symptoms until they go away.

Topical treatments such as antihistamines and corticosteroids can help. Lifestyle and behavioral changes can help as well. Oral medications are available for more severe cases if other options are not effective enough.

A Word From Verywell

Experiencing hives can be very uncomfortable and challenging, especially when the symptoms do not resolve quickly. If you or someone you know has red, itchy bumps on the skin or suspects hives, help is available. Reach out to a healthcare professional such as a primary care practitioner for support. Urticaria is treatable with topical creams and medications, home remedies, and oral medications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best topical cream for hives?

    The best topical cream or other treatment option for hives depends on the individual, the cause of the hives, and the severity of the symptoms. Antihistamines such as Benadryl are often tried first.

  • Is it possible to use too much topical cream?

    Topical creams have doses just like any other type of medication. It is possible to use too much, so it is important to check usage guidelines and measure the amount that is applied to the skin to prevent side effects and adverse reactions.

  • What are the side effects of using topical creams to treat hives?

    The side effects of using topical creams to treat hives depend on the type of medication. Some possibilities include an increase in symptoms, skin irritation, and burning of the eyes or open skin. It is important to check the possible side effects of the individual medication and follow usage guidelines or the recommendations of a medical professional.

16 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Hives.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hives: Overview.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hives: Diagnosis and treatment.

  4. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Hives (urticaria) and angioedema overview.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 ways to get relief from chronic hives.

  6. Joy N. Calamine lotionJSSTD. 2022;4(1):83-86. doi:10.25259/JSSTD_77_2021

  7. National Health Service. Steroids.

  8. National Health Services. Hydrocortisone for skin.

  9. National Health Service. Antihistamine.

  10. Limpongsanurak W, Tuchinda P, Chularojanamontri L, Chanyachailert P, Korkij W, Chunharas A. Clinical practice guideline for diagnosis and management of urticaria. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2016;34:190-200.

  11. Pfizer. What are anti-infectives?

  12. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Dapsone.

  13. National Health Service. Diphenhydramine.

  14. National Health Service. Corticosteroids.

  15. Cedars Sinai. Urticaria (hives) in children.

  16. Allergy Institute. Don't scratch that itch! Understanding hives and how to find relief.

By Ashley Olivine, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Ashley Olivine is a health psychologist and public health professional with over a decade of experience serving clients in the clinical setting and private practice. She has also researched a wide variety psychology and public health topics such as the management of health risk factors, chronic illness, maternal and child wellbeing, and child development.