How Common Are Hives During Menopause?

Last updated 03.21.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 9 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Around 1 in 6 women will experience an episode of hives throughout their lifetime. Hives, otherwise known as urticaria, are usually caused by an allergic reaction or another physical stimulus such as excessive heat or pressure. 

Some women experience hives during their menopausal journey. This can happen for several reasons, including hormonal shifts. Our immune systems are directly influenced by our hormones, and when changes occur, it can lead to an increase in allergy symptoms. In rarer cases, it can even trigger a new allergy. 

So, if you’re suffering from hives during menopause, it’s important to understand the underlying cause so that you can seek effective treatment and find relief. 

Most episodes of hives are mild and the symptoms are short-lived, like the case I developed several years ago while on vacation in Florida. I was perimenopausal at the time and hot flashes were becoming a regular part of my day. This, combined with the hot and humid summer heat, caused an uncomfortable rash unlike any I’d experienced before. 

Thankfully, my symptoms only lasted 24 hours, and by the following day, my skin was back to normal. However, as a front-line emergency room doctor, I’ve treated patients with severe cases of hives that have required hospitalization.

So, are you suffering from hives and wondering what to do about it? Are you curious if the problem could be connected to menopause? In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about hives during menopause, including why it happens, and what you can do to treat the problem.

What Are Hives?

Hives, or urticaria, are a rash that often appears red and inflamed. It’s characterized by bumps or raised welts that sit on the surface of the skin. Hives are usually itchy, and they may also sting or burn. They form in blotches on the skin, which can sometimes spread to form larger blotches known as plaques.

The most common trigger of hives is an allergic reaction. When a person comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system releases a chemical called histamine. Histamine dilates the blood vessels and causes them to leak a small amount of fluid. This fluid pools under the skin’s surface and creates hives.

What are The Different Types of Hives?

There are two main types of hives:

  • Acute urticaria: These are hives that come on suddenly and last less than 6 weeks. However, most cases of acute hives resolve themselves much more quickly, usually within 24 to 48 hours.
  • Chronic urticaria: These are recurring hives that reappear at least twice during seven days, and last for more than 6 weeks.

Hives are also classed as either localized (concentrated to a specific area) or generalized (widespread across the body.)

The type of hives a patient has depends largely on the trigger.

Is There A Relationship Between Hives and Menopause?

Hives can happen at any time of life, however, certain changes that occur during menopause can increase your chances of developing them. 

During perimenopause (the build-up to menopause), levels of estrogen and progesterone begin to spike and fall. These fluctuations in hormones can cause our antibody response to increase. As a result, once harmless substances can now cause an allergic reaction.

Another common trigger of hives during menopause is due to underlying medical conditions, for example, viral or bacterial infections that also cause an immune response. 

As estrogen levels fall, it also makes the skin more delicate and sensitive than it once was. So, irritating substances and changes in temperature can trigger a rash such as hives. This inflammatory response is especially common in women who, like me, suffer from frequent hot flashes.

Stress levels can also increase during menopause. Vasomotor symptoms, brain fog, mood swings, and insomnia can all contribute to rising stress, which is another major trigger of hives.

What Are the Symptoms of Hives?

Hives are usually quite easy to identify. Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Severe itching and desire to scratch
  • Raised bumps on the surface of the skin
  • Raised areas of skin
  • Welts
  • Redness (particularly on lighter-skinned individuals)

If hives are caused by an allergic reaction, they may also be accompanied by swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, which can obstruct breathing and is classed as a medical emergency. If you notice this symptom, seek medical attention immediately.

How to Manage Hives During Menopause?

A mild case of hives isn’t classed as a serious health concern. However, it is important to try and identify what led to the hives in the first place, so that you can take steps to avoid the trigger in the future.

If you’re concerned about hives or you suffer from chronic hives that won’t seem to go away, book an appointment with your doctor. They can help you to identify the underlying cause and find a treatment plan that can help.

There are also several measures that you can take at home that may help you find relief, including:

Take Antihistamines

Antihistamine medication is the most effective and fast-acting way to manage the symptoms of hives. Antihistamines are available at any pharmacy and can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. 

In more severe cases that require medical attention, your doctor may prescribe prescription-only antihistamines.

Take care when taking any type of antihistamine as some forms of this drug can make you feel drowsy. You may need to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while you are taking this medication. Check with your doctor if you’re unsure.

Take a Colloidal Oatmeal Bath

Oats have potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help to relieve the inflammation and itchiness of skin rashes such as hives. Colloidal oatmeal is simply oats that have been finely ground to release more of their soothing properties.

A popular method of using colloidal oats is to add two cups to a warm (not hot) bath. Soak your skin in the bath for a maximum of 15 minutes before drying off with a soft towel, taking care not to scratch.

Avoid rinsing the colloidal oat water from your skin, as the soothing and protective properties will continue to work throughout the day.

Apply Aloe Vera

Like oats, aloe vera is also packed with anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe and cool the itchy effects of hives. 

Stick to pure, 100% aloe vera, and avoid lotions or creams that contain other additives. These can further irritate and inflame the skin. If you haven’t used aloe vera before, test it on a small area of skin before applying further. Reapply 3-4 times throughout the day, or as needed.

Apply Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion is a combination of two soothing natural ingredients, zinc oxide and iron oxide. It’s commonly used to treat the itching caused by chickenpox and poison ivy, but it’s also an effective way to manage the itching associated with hives.

Like aloe vera, before using calamine lotion, be sure to test on a small area of skin to check you’re not allergic.

Keep Track of Your Symptoms

If hives are recurring, it’s important to identify the cause. So, keep track of your symptoms using a diary or the notes app on your phone. Note down anything you ate, any environmental factors, and any substances such as perfumes or laundry detergents that you may have used before the flare-up arrived.

Over time, keeping detailed notes can help you to recognize any patterns that may be occurring so you can identify what’s causing your hives.

Once you know the cause, you can avoid the trigger.

Wear Loose-Fitting, Natural Fiber Clothing

If possible, avoid wearing synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon while you are suffering from hives. These fabrics can further irritate and inflame your skin, making hives worse. Instead, stick to natural fibers such as cotton which are gentler to your skin. 

Also, avoid any tight-fitting clothing that can rub against the skin and constrict the flow of blood needed to heal the hives.

Utilize cold therapy

Hives can often feel warm to the touch and symptoms can get worse in hot and humid conditions. So, to find relief from ticking and discomfort, try applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area. The cold will help your blood vessels to contract, temporarily reducing swelling and inflammation.

FAQs

Can HRT help to reduce the symptoms of hives during menopause?

If you suffer from chronic hives linked to hormonal fluctuations, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be able to help. By treating the underlying cause of the immune response (in this case, hormones) it may be possible to break the cycle of hives for good.

Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of HRT to see if this is the right option for you.

Are there any lifestyle changes I can make that will reduce the symptoms of hives?

Keeping a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise strengthens the endocrine system and helps to balance your hormones. This in turn may help to reduce the frequency and severity of chronic hives.

How can I keep my stress levels low during menopause?

If stress is the underlying cause of your hives, it’s important to take steps to reduce your stress and lower the levels of cortisol in your blood. Techniques such as mindfulness, aromatherapy, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can all help.

Conclusion

Hives can strike at any time in life, but hormonal changes during menopause make them more likely to occur.

If you’re suffering from hives, it’s important to identify what’s causing the problem so you can avoid potential triggers going forward. Keeping a diary of your symptoms and noting down any potential substances that might cause an allergic reaction is a good starting point.

If hives reoccur or become more severe, speak to your doctor as soon as possible. They can assess your symptoms, provide an accurate diagnosis, and help you find a treatment plan that can bring relief.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.