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What Causes Hives at Night?

Anti-itch cream can be applied at bedtime to alleviate the symptoms of hives.
Small cluster of hives.
Scratching hives during sleep may make them itch more.
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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
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Hives at night are usually caused by the same kinds of things that cause hives in the daytime. That means they typically result from various allergic reactions or sometimes insect bites. There is a tendency for hives to become more severe at night because the body’s natural coping mechanisms relax a bit as people go to sleep. Sometimes, individuals may also have a specific allergy to something directly related to their sleeping situation or habits.

The human body has anti-inflammatory chemicals produced through natural processes, and these tend to lessen itching sensations. For example, if someone is bitten by an insect, he or she may experience some level of discomfort and itching, but it would often be worse without the presence of these chemicals. When people go to sleep, the inner processes that create the suppressant chemicals tend to slow down, which often causes any itching to worsen.

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When the anti-inflammatory chemicals recede, things that happened during the day may suddenly cause exaggerated effects. For example, if someone was exposed to a substance that he was allergic to during the day, he may not even notice the symptoms at the time of exposure, but they could become much more noticeable at night. When hives at night are caused by things that happen during the daytime, it can be more difficult to figure out what allergen is responsible. Sometimes, hives may appear at night, then go away the next day, only to return again the next night; this could go on for a while in some cases.

For some people, the cause of hives that appear at night is more directly related to something that happens in the moments during or before sleep. For example, individuals may have sheets on their beds made of a material they are allergic to. It’s also possible for a person to expose himself to some chemical during his preparations for sleep, such as a particular soap used while showering.

The treatment for hives is usually different depending on the cause. In the best-case scenario, it may be possible for someone to simply change to a different kind of sheet or pillow fabric. In other cases, it can be more complicated, and some people may not be able to easily discover the source of their hives. One common treatment option is for people to take some kind of antihistamine right before bedtime, and this can often be enough to suppress the allergic reaction. Others rely on various anti-itching creams to deal with the symptoms.

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Reedboy
Post 9

I have been having hives that break out only in the afternoon around 5, and it usually always starts at my wrist and other patches and it burns! I put milk on it to treat it, but then it just comes back the next day, or in other spots. The hives recently happened after a certain plant that was recently legalized in Washington and Colorado, but I've been doing that for over a year and hasn't been a problem.

I started with rubbing it to try to reproduce the same results, but had no reaction over a long period of time. I went under my bed and was down there for about five minutes and my face began to feel like it was on fire, but that was the first time in a week I went down there, and it always happens in my leather chair, so I disinfected it, but I still got the hives.

anon348754
Post 8

I found out my Vitamin D and other vitamins were causing my hives.

JimmyT
Post 7

I had an interesting experience with hives at night one time. I woke up after being asleep for a couple of hours, and my neck and arms were itching like crazy. It was so bad, I couldn't hardly stop scratching. I knew it wasn't my sheets or detergent or anything, because I've never had a reaction to anything like that. The only logical thing I could come up with was that somehow I had gotten bedbugs.

I didn't know how it could have happened, but I did stay in a hotel a few weeks before that, so I thought maybe they came from there, since I guess that's a big problem now. Anyway, I got up and started finding information about bedbugs online. Fortunately, I didn't find any signs of bedbugs, and my hives weren't right.

After thinking about it some more, I had decided that it was my hair that was causing the itching. I had gotten it cut earlier in the day and didn't have time to wash it before bed. The little clippings that were left in my hair had fallen onto my pillow and poked my neck and arms to cause the itching!

TreeMan
Post 6

@Emilski - If I am not mistaken, hives can be classified as any sort of allergic reaction that causes itching and redness, so insect bites would definitely be included in that category.

One thing that I would recommend if you don't do it already is to wear some sort of insect repellent. When I am working outside, I prefer to use 100% DEET. Because it is more concentrated, it comes in smaller tubes rather than spray bottles like regular insect repellent. You can use much less of it, as well. I usually just dab a little bit of it around my ears and then do a couple of sprays on my arms and clothes. I rarely have any insect problems. I don't know how it works for ants, though.

As far as the treatment of hives once you have them, you might be able to try some over-the-counter antihistimines. For your situation, it sounds like Benadryl or the equivalent would be the most appropriate. It works quickly, but will also make you drowsy, so I would only use it at night. Like always, though, check with your doctor if you aren't sure about what to take.

Emilski
Post 5

Wow, I always wondered why itching got worse at night. I have always felt like that happened, but I thought maybe I was just imagining things.

What exactly is the definition of hives? Does it have to be some type of allergic reaction or can it just be any type of itchy bump or rash, like from a bug bite?

I work outside in the woods, and I always end up with lots of bites from mosquitoes, ants, spiders, and all kinds of other bugs. I haven't pinpointed what insect causes them, but one type of bite is especially itchy. I think it is the ant bites. During the day, I have to constantly put an anti-itch gel on them, because I am someone who will start scratching the bites without even realizing I am doing it. That just makes them worse.

At night, though, the itching can get unbearable. It seems like no matter what I do, the feeling doesn't go away. Does anyone have any hints about how to stop itching at night?

kentuckycat
Post 4

@fify - That is funny, because I had a similar experience not too long ago. I went to bed, and I woke up a couple of hours later itching like crazy. I didn't have any idea what was causing it. I had washed my laundry, including my sheets, earlier that day, so that was what I immediately expected. I hadn't used any new detergent, so I didn't know why I was itching.

I went ahead and tried to sleep on the couch that night, but had the exact same problem. It turns out it wasn't my sheets at all. It was the shirt I was wearing! I had visited my parents the weekend before and had washed up my clothes, including my night shirt, before coming back. Apparently, they had a detergent that my body didn't agree with, and it had just been a few days before I had worn that specific shirt. The really interesting part is that I washed all of my other clothes in the same load and didn't have any problems. I guess that confirms the theory of having stronger reactions at night.

SteamLouis
Post 3

I believe that hives act up at night because of our immune system. I guess there is something that changes when we start resting that causes our immune system to become less active at night.

I have chronic hives. I've had them for the past three years. I've taken all precautions with my bedding and have made sure that there are no allergens there. Sometimes, my hives get worse even before I go to bed, when I get home from work and start resting. Doctors have not been able to find a cause for my hives nor why they get worse at night.

fBoyle
Post 2

@fify-- Oh wow! It's great you thought about your bed sheets. I'm sure it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out what's going on!

The weird thing is when you assume you're not allergic to something because it has never caused an allergic reaction with you before. There was a perfume that I used for a couple of years. I never had problems with it until one day out of nowhere it caused me to break out in hives. And it would get worse at night.

It took me so long to figure out that it was the perfume because I really didn't expect it! My doctor was getting ready to treat me with chronic hives!

fify
Post 1

This happened to me last week when I had hives at night only two days in a row. I was absolutely fine one day when I went to bed. But then I woke up in the middle of the night itching and got up to see that I had hives all over!

I couldn't figure out why it happened and tossed and turned the whole night. The next morning, I got some anti-itch cream from the pharmacy with corticosteroid. By noon, my itching was basically gone and my hives looked a lot better. But the same exact thing happened that night.

I had bought a new laundry detergent recently and it had been my first time washing my bed sheets with it. I realized then that the detergent must be the culprit. I bought a non-allergenic detergent that day, and washed all my sheets again. Long and behold, I had no more hives come up that night and after.

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