General: There is no cure for allergies. The best way to prevent symptoms from recurring is to avoid exposure to latex. Treatments, such as antihistamines and corticosteroids, may help alleviate symptoms of an allergic reaction. If patients develop a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, immediate medical attention should be sought. Administration of epinephrine may be necessary to avoid circulatory collapse and death.
Most healthcare facilities in the United States have latex-free products available for patients and employees who are allergic to latex. Patients should tell their healthcare providers if they are allergic to latex and always wear a medical alert bracelet.
Antihistamines: Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) reverse the actions of histamine and help reduce allergy symptoms. Diphenhydramine is injected when quick action is needed during a severe allergic reaction. It may be given by mouth for a less severe allergic reaction.
Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids have been used to treat severe allergic reactions. Corticosteroids are usually given through an IV (intravenously) at first in order to quickly relieve symptoms. These drugs reduce swelling and many other symptoms of allergic reactions. Patients may also need to take a corticosteroid in pill form for several days after the initial treatment. These drugs are often given for less severe reactions.
Epinephrine: Epinephrine is only used to treat anaphylaxis. Epinephrine is injected into the patient. This drug acts as a bronchodilator because it opens the breathing tubes. It also constricts the blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. Patients who experience anaphylaxis may be admitted to the hospital to have their blood pressure monitored and possibly to receive breathing support. Other emergency interventions may also include placing a tube through the nose or mouth and into the airway (called endotracheal intubation) or emergency surgery to place a tube directly into the trachea (called atracheostomy or cricothyrotomy).
Individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis should carry a prescription epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen®). If symptoms of anaphylaxis begin to appear after exposure to an allergen, the patient uses the device to inject the epinephrine into his/her thigh. A trained family member or friend may help the patient administer the epinephrine, if necessary.
Less severe allergic reactions that affect breathing may be treated with an inhaled epinephrine bronchodilator.
Hydrocortisone cream: Hydrocortisone 1% cream, which is available over-the-counter, has anti-inflammatory effects and relieves swelling and redness, as well as itching. Prescription hydrocortisone has been used to relieve itching, redness, dryness, crusting, scaling, inflammation, and discomfort associated with allergic reactions.
Note: Anaphylaxis is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care. Therefore, integrative therapies should not be used in place of conventional medicine when an individual has a serious allergic or anaphylactic reaction.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is commonly used throughout the world. According to Chinese medicine theory, the human body contains a network of energy pathways through which vital energy, called "chi," circulates. These pathways contain specific points that function like gates, allowing chi to flow through the body. Needles are inserted into these points to regulate the flow of chi. Acupuncture plus point-injection has been found beneficial for the treatment of hives, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Needles must be sterile in order to avoid disease transmission. Avoid with heart valve disease, infections, bleeding disorders, medical conditions of unknown origin, or neurological disorders. Avoid if taking drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Avoid on areas that have received radiation therapy. Use cautiously with pulmonary disease (such as asthma or emphysema). Use cautiously in elderly or medically compromised patients, diabetics, or with history of seizures. Avoid electroacupuncture with arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or in patients with pacemakers. Avoid if pregnant.
Cat's claw: Cat's claw is widely used in the United States and Europe, and it is one of the top herbal remedies sold despite a lack of high-quality human evidence. It has been suggested that cat's claw may help treat allergic respiratory diseases. However, there is limited scientific evidence. More well-designed trials are needed to determine whether cat's claw is a beneficial treatment.
Avoid if allergic to Cat's claw, Uncaria plants, or plants in the Rubiaceae family (such as gardenia or quinine). Avoid with immune disorders (such as AIDS, HIV, some types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus). Use cautiously in patients taking iron, blood pressure agents, diuretics, estrogens, progestins, or drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Use cautiously with bleeding disorders, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, or kidney dysfunction. Stop use two weeks before and immediately after surgery/dental/diagnostic procedures with bleeding risks. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. Cat's claw may be contaminated with other Uncaria species. Reports exist of a potentially toxic the Texan grown plant Acacia gregii being substituted for cat's claw.
Burdock: Burdock is a plant that is native to Europe and northern Asia. The root is most often used in herbal preparations. Traditionally, burdock has been used to treat hives. However, there is currently no human evidence on its safety and effectiveness for this use.
Avoid if allergic to burdock or other plants of the Asteraceae/Compositae family (such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies). Avoid with a history of dehydration, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, or HIV. Stop use before and immediately after surgeries or dental or diagnostic procedures with bleeding risks. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Chamomile: Chamomile is an herb that has an apple-like smell and taste. It is commonly taken as a tea. Although chamomile has traditionally been used to treat hives, scientific evidence is lacking. Currently, no human trials have evaluated the safety or effectiveness of chamomile for this use.
Avoid if allergic to chamomile or any related plants, such as aster, chrysanthemum, mugwort, ragweed, or ragwort. Stop use two weeks before and immediately after surgery/dental/diagnostic procedures with bleeding risks. Use cautiously if driving or operating machinery. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Detoxification therapy (cleansing): Detoxification is a broad concept that encompasses many different modalities and substances used in cleansing the body's systems and organs. Detoxification has been suggested as a possible treatment for hives. However, there is currently no scientific evidence of its safety or effectiveness for this use.
In cases of illness, the various forms of detoxification should be used under professional guidance. See specific monographs for precautions and warnings associated with modalities of detoxification.
Ephedra: Ephedra is a natural stimulant. Traditionally, ephedra has been used to treat hives. However, there is currently no evidence on the safety and effectiveness of ephedra for this use.
Even though this herb has been suggested as a potential treatment for hives, it is unsafe for humans. Serious reactions, including heart attack, stroke, seizure, and death have occurred. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned sales of ephedra dietary supplements in all states except for Utah.
Kudzu: Kudzu is an herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for many years. Traditionally, kudzu has been used to treat hives. However, there is currently no scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy for this use.
No well-designed studies on the long-term effects of kudzu are available. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to Pueraria lobata or members of the Fabaceae/Leguminosae family. Use cautiously with blood thinners and blood pressure-lowering agents, hormones, antiarrhythmics, benzodiazepines, bisphosphonates, diabetes medications, drugs that are metabolized by the liver's cytochrome P450 enzymes, mecamylamine, neurologic agents, and methotrexate. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Moxibustion: Moxibustion is a therapeutic method in traditional Chinese medicine, classical (five element) acupuncture, and Japanese acupuncture. During the therapy, an herb (usually mugwort) is burned above the skin or on the acupuncture points in order to introduce heat into an acupuncture point and alleviate symptoms. There is limited evidence suggesting that moxibustion may help treat hives. Additional research is needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of moxibustion for this use.
Use cautiously over large blood vessels and thin or weak skin. Avoid with aneurysms, any kind of "heat syndrome," heart disease, convulsions, cramps, diabetic neuropathy, extreme fatigue and/or anemia, fever, or inflammatory conditions. Avoid use over allergic skin conditions, ulcerated sores, skin adhesions, or inflamed areas or organs. Do not use on contraindicated acupuncture points, the face, genitals, head, or nipples. Use cautiously in patients who have just finished exercising or taking a hot bath or shower. Use cautiously in elderly people with large vessels. Not advisable to bathe or shower for up to 24 hours after a moxibustion treatment. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Peppermint oil: Peppermint is a flowering plant that grows throughout Europe and North America. Peppermint is usually grown for its fragrant oil. Historically, peppermint has been used to treat hives. Further research is needed to determine whether peppermint is safe and effective for this use.
Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to peppermint or menthol. Peppermint is generally considered safe in non-allergic adults when taken in small doses. Use cautiously with G6PD deficiency or gallbladder disease. Menthol, which makes up part of peppermint oil, is generally considered safe in non-allergic adults. However, doses of menthol greater than 1 gram per kilogram of body weight may be deadly in humans. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are sometimes called friendly germs. They help maintain a healthy intestine and help the body digest foods. They also help keep harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut under control. Most probiotics come from food sources, especially cultured milk products. Although probiotics have been suggested as a possible treatment for hives, there is insufficient scientific evidence on its safety and efficacy for this use.
Probiotics are generally considered safe and well tolerated. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to probiotics. Use cautiously if lactose intolerant.
Individuals with a history of anaphylaxis should carry a prescription epinephrine auto-injector (known as an EpiPen®) with them at all times. A trained family member or friend may help the patient administer the epinephrine, if necessary.
Allergic individuals should tell their healthcare providers, including their dentists orthodontists, nurses, and personal care assistants, if they are allergic to latex.
Wearing an identification bracelet that describes the allergy is also recommended.
Patients should consider carrying non-latex gloves with them for emergency personnel if urgent medical care is ever needed.
Many products that are made with latex clearly state that they contain latex or natural rubber. However, if there is ever any doubt, allergic individuals should call the manufacturer to determine whether or not the product contains latex.
Hypoallergenic products may contain latex. Hypoallergenic simply means fewer chemicals were used to make the product. It does not necessarily mean that latex was not used.
Allergic individuals should use non-latex condoms. Consider using polyurethane or lambskin condoms. However, condoms made of alternative products do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (such as HIV, gonorrhea and syphilis) as well as latex condoms.
Healthcare professionals with latex allergies should wear non-latex gloves when a protective barrier is necessary. They should also use equipment, such as stethoscopes and surgical masks, that are latex-free.
Individuals should also tell their friends, loved ones, and coworkers they are allergic to latex, to help avoid exposure to many types of equipment and products that contain latex.