One day, as you’re getting your baby dressed for the day, you might notice reddish bumps on your little one’s skin. Hives are a common form of a rash, and if you notice them on your baby, you probably have a few questions.
Hives can be a sign of many different things. Your baby may have sensitive skin, they might be sick, or there could be another reason, like nursery room temperature changes. A newborn is just beginning to experience the world, so you and your little one are learning what affects them and how to help if needed.
If you notice hives on your little one, you’ll need to figure out potential causes, whether you need to call the doctor, and how hives can be treated so that your baby can return to being their healthy and happy self.
What Are Hives?
Hives (urticaria) are a skin condition that usually has an underlying cause, which means hives are typically a symptom of a problem. They are red or pink bumps that are irritating and itchy. They can potentially sting.
The size of hives varies, but they are generally found in clusters. They can look like mosquito bites but can also be blotchy. Instead of being small and round, blotchy hives have a larger, more irregular shape.
One way to check for hives is to press the center of the mysterious dot in question. With hives, the center is normally paler. If you gently press on one, the skin will usually become white and return to red after you remove the pressure.
Hives might travel. You may find them in one area, and they’ll disappear after a few hours and then reappear in another place. Usually, hives will only last for a few hours, but it’s possible for them to stick around for a few days or even weeks.
But what causes these bumps in the road of a normally happy day?
The Common Causes of Hives
Hives are an itchy rash that occurs when the immune system notices something potentially worrisome or bothersome. The mast cells (part of the immune system) send out a chemical called histamine, which causes the hives to appear.
Although hives are typically the result of something else, many possible causes can make it difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. However, there are three groups we can divide the causes of hives into: allergic reactions, infections, and other causes.
It may be easier to identify the cause if you keep a record of what your baby may have come into contact with before the hives appeared. Usually, hives appear between a few minutes or two hours after your baby is exposed to the cause, particularly if it is part of an allergic reaction.
Most adults get hives when they’re having allergic reactions. Babies can have this problem as well. Since it’s not quite possible to learn what your infant is allergic to without some trial and error, keep an eye out for hives or other symptoms of an allergic reaction when you introduce something new into their diet.
Food is one of the most common reasons for an allergic reaction. These reactions may happen once you’ve started introducing your child to solids. Certain formulas may also cause an allergic reaction, especially in babies who are lactose intolerant.
Another common cause can be medication prescribed by your child’s pediatrician. Most people don’t find out if they’re allergic to something until they’ve taken it, and the case is the same for babies.
Besides food allergies, other possible causes can be:
- Pet dander
- Soaps or other cleaning products
- Outdoor allergens, like pollen
- Insect bites or stings
Hives by themselves are usually a sign of a mild allergic reaction. However, when combined with other symptoms, like vomiting, trouble breathing, or swelling, they might indicate a severe allergic reaction. This requires a trip to the doctor.
A serious allergic reaction can cause your baby’s body to go into anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately by a healthcare professional.
Nickel Allergies and Nickel-Free Clothing
Babies frequently react to nickel, which is why Tabeeze snaps are nickel-free. Many things contain nickel, from jewelry to zippers to onesie snaps. That said, a nickel allergy might not appear initially since it usually occurs with continued or repeated exposure.
Bacterial Infections and Viral Infections
Hives in babies and young children can also be a symptom of a virus or infection. The hives will most likely appear alongside other symptoms, like a fever.
Other potential causes for hives include:
- Tight clothing
- Excess exposure to the sunlight
- Sudden changes in temperature
- Heat rash
- Bee stings
Basically, if anything irritates your baby’s skin or immune system, red bumps might appear.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
The next step in learning about baby hives is determining when you need to contact the doctor. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to call your doctor to discuss any hives that pop up on your young ones.
This is especially true if hives show up after taking medication, trying new food, or experiencing a bite or sting from an insect. It may result from an allergic reaction, so your doctor will probably want to see the baby and test for allergies to prevent future reactions.
Your pediatrician may not require you to bring your baby in every time, but if it’s the first time your little one has hives, your healthcare team may want to do a quick examination.
If the hives continue getting worse or if your baby starts developing other symptoms, you should call your pediatrician and make an appointment. Or, if the doctor recommends it, you can take your little one to a pediatric urgent care.
Call and schedule an appointment with your family’s pediatrician if the hives last longer than a couple of weeks. They may refer you to a specialist, or they may want to continue monitoring the situation.
Hives can last for months, although they might come and go. It’s not ideal, but there are ways to help relieve some of the irritation.
When Should I Consider Hives To Be an Emergency?
The appearance of hives on their own isn’t really an emergency, but if they are combined with the symptoms of anaphylaxis, you should call 911.
These symptoms include:
- Problems breathing
- Hoarse/strained voice
- Difficulty speaking (if they’re older)
- Losing consciousness
If your infant has a fever and there aren’t any available appointments at your pediatrician's office, a visit to urgent care is a good idea. If your child is acting abnormally, consider taking them to the doctor for peace of mind.
How Are Hives Treated?
The treatment for hives will depend on the underlying cause. However, until the hives go away, there are ways to help relieve some of the discomfort.
There are other treatments that your baby’s doctor may prescribe to help with the underlying cause. Sometimes, all that is needed is to avoid the instigating factor, but it’s not always possible.
Being itchy can be the most annoying thing ever. Although your baby can’t express this through words, they may show their discomfort through attempts to scratch at the irritated areas or by being slightly more fussy than normal.
One of the easiest ways to help soothe your baby’s itchy skin is to soak a washcloth in cool water and place it on the hives to relieve some of the irritation.
Baby and Eco-Friendly Clothing
It’s a smart idea to try to trim your infant’s nails or put mittens on their hands if they’re dealing with hives. It prevents them from scratching, which will prevent further irritation as well. Properly fitting clothes (not too tight) can also help.
Synthetic fibers, like rayon, nylon, and Spandex, can be irritating, particularly for newborns who have extra sensitive skin. Synthetic fabrics infused with microplastics pose an additional risk; these can enter our bodies, local water sources, and more.
That’s why we only opt for onesies that are GOTS Certified Organic.
An oatmeal bath may soothe hives. Adding colloidal oatmeal to a lukewarm bath can relieve some of the itchiness. Limit these baths to ten minutes for the optimal effect.
If an oatmeal bath isn’t in the cards, a ten-minute cool bath (but not cold) might prove beneficial.
If your baby is sensitive to the weather, limiting their exposure to extreme temperatures can be helpful. If they have trouble with heat, staying inside with the air conditioner running should help reduce hives.
If cold, dry weather is the problem, layers can keep your baby warm when you’re going out, and you may want to consider investing in a humidifier to put some moisture back into the air.
Changing your laundry soap and detergents to gentle, scent-free varieties might be the ticket.
Once a doctor evaluates your baby, they may prescribe medicine to help treat the potential underlying causes. If it’s a mild case, your doctor may find medication unnecessary, but they might have some other suggestions.
If the culprit is allergies, your doctor might prescribe antihistamines. They will help reduce an allergic reaction. However, you should only give your baby antihistamines if your doctor recommends it and in the dosage they recommend. Over-the-counter antihistamines (like Benadryl) are not usually recommended for children under two.
A pediatrician may prescribe epinephrine or a steroid injection if the allergy is more severe. If future severe reactions are likely, the doctor may also give you an EpiPen. Always follow the doctor's instructions when administering these medications.
If the hives result from an infection, your doctor will likely prescribe the necessary medication to combat the virus.
A Healthy Baby Is a Happy Baby
Seeing hives on your little one might be scary the first time, but now you know a bit more about what to expect and look for. Most cases of hives are mild, although it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor when you first see them.
We understand that a baby’s comfort is the utmost priority to any caregiver. When they’re uncomfortable or unhappy, we want to do our best to help them with whatever they need.
With the doctor’s help and some time, the hives will vanish, and your family can enjoy your time together without worrying.