What to Do If You Break Out in Hives on Your Wedding Day


By Ivy Jacobson 

Solange Knowles probably didn’t have a clue that she would break out in hives on her wedding day (due to getting overheated while dancing and having an allergic reaction to seafood) but took Benadryl to remedy the unfortunate situation. So if you’re planning on dancing up as a storm (as you should!) or having animals and allergens at your wedding, take a few minutes to read up on hives symptoms and remedies — and what antihistamines to have on hand just in case!

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We spoke to Sakina Bajowala, M.D., a Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist at Kaneland Allergy & Asthma Center in North Aurora, IL, to find out just what to do if you start noticing itchy, swelling red welts on your skin. (Remember Carrie Bradshaw’s hives meltdown in a wedding dress on Sex and the City?).

What are the most common causes for breaking out in hives?

The most common causes for an acute case of hives are viral infections and allergies (food, drug or environmental — such as animal exposure). The most common cause of chronic hives is autoimmune urticaria (hives lasting longer than six weeks).

What’s the difference between hives and allergies?

Hives are a reaction in the skin where you develop redness, swollen bumps and itching (similar to the appearance and sensation of a mosquito bite). This reaction is triggered by the release of histamine and other chemical mediators from immune cells in the skin. Allergies can be a cause of this mediator release, but non-allergic conditions can also result in hives.

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If I break out in hives the day of my wedding, what’s the quickest fix?

The fastest fix for acute hives is typically an antihistamine. First generation antihistamines such as Benadryl work fast, but are sedating and wear off after a few hours. Long-acting antihistamines (Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec) take from 30 minutes to four hours to start working, and will suppress hives for up to 24 hours. They tend to be less sedating.

What shouldn’t I do to irritate them?

Don’t scratch, wear tight clothing, get too warm or consume highly acidic foods or too much alcohol (especially red wine).

How long do hives last?

Depending on the cause, hives can resolve in a few hours, or can recur over the course of months to years.

How can you prevent food allergies at your wedding?

It can be difficult to fully eliminate the risk of food allergies. However, some steps can help minimize the risk: avoiding (or clearly labeling) common food allergens such as nuts or seafood in your wedding menu, asking guests to inform you in advance of food allergies and keeping emergency medication (epinephrine auto-injector and antihistamines) on hand.

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