Vanessa Lachey smiling, standing in front of trees
Courtesy of Vanessa Lachey

Vanessa Lachey — actor, television host, and former Miss Teen USA — remembers her first experience with hives.

“I was almost nine years old. We didn’t know what was happening when I woke my dad up. He put me in a bath. I think back to the day when they thought this would help her skin. Lachey tells Healthline that he was screaming.”

The itching came back when Lachey was out of the ice.

When most of us think of hives (also called urticaria), we think about occasional allergic reactions — itchy bumps that vanish shortly after popping up.

For some, they arrive after exposure to known triggers or as a reaction to an allergen.

For others like Lachey, there can be no reason for a hive.

“The thing is, I don’t know when they’re gonna come,” Lachey says. “I’ve been allergy tested, and I have an intolerance to things that I try to avoid, but it can be anything from stress, to elements in the weather, to fabrics, to something in the air; anything.”

“Lachey’s hives are also unpredictable and linger.”

It can be a hive on my face, like a small bug. It can be a rash on my body for a week or two. She says she will see traces of it for a week.

Lachey has been dealing with hives for the entire of her life and finally found some relief through a new medication. She spoke with Healthline about how to deal with a flare-up of her hives, and about a new treatment that works with her daily life.

“Healthline talked to a couple of doctors. They say that Lachey’s experience isn’t uncommon.”

Anjuli Mehrotra, MD, an allergist/immunologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, explains that hives are usually divided into two categories: acute and chronic. “Acute hives are hives that are episodic and generally last for less than six weeks. If the hives last longer than six weeks, it is considered chronic hives,” she says.

Many cases of chronic hives, according to Mehrotra, don’t have known triggers and are considered to be a condition called chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU).

In this case, there are no usual triggers that are responsible for the hives. It can be difficult to have a hive without any obvious cause.

Laura Purdy MD, a board-certified family medicine physician says idiopathic is basically, “a fancy medical word for ‘we have ‘no idea what causes this.’”

CIU affects nearly 1.6 million people in the U.S. and is most commonly seen in women ages 20 to 40.

Both adults and children can experience chronic hives.

She notes that children tend to have less severe cases. Children tend to have a shorter duration of chronic urticaria than adults.

The children of Lachey experience the same symptoms as Lachey but on a less severe level.

They will get a lot of hives around their neck, face, and little legs and arms. All of them would get the pictures of me holding my babies. She laughs that we are clearly connected.

Dr. Purdy says that it is possible that certain types of hives can be hereditary. She says that family members can be sensitive to certain triggers because of their allergies.

One older study showed that CIU is more common among first-degree relatives.

Courtesy of Vanessa Lachey

Hives can be large or small.

In addition to the potential of swelling or welting, hives can also lead to extreme itching, and that can vary size. They can be small, but can cluster and eventually coalesce into larger hives that can become quite large.

Lachey has a range of hives. I get big and small breakouts. They are either a rash or a welt.

The itchy feeling can cause serious pain and make you feel unwell. Lachey says you feel it from the inside. There is nothing that scratching can do to relieve the pain and the itch.

Lachey had a painful birth to her first child. She says that the one that brought her to tears was very severe.

“I was so happy to be home. My husband said I couldn’t enjoy being home in my bed because I was crying and itching.”

There are many known causes of hives, including some allergens.

This can include:

“A majority of the time, we cannot identify a particular cause for chronic hives, but we can see hives chronically due to some physical conditions (in association with cold, heat, pressure, exercise, sun, etc.) or occasionally associated with autoimmune diseases (thyroid disease, diabetes, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.), though this is more rare,” Mehrotra says.

“Lachey knows some of her quirks, but she has a job that makes some of them unavoidable. I travel and work a lot. triggers could be anything, anywhere. I don’t know. Sometimes it is stress. It can be a hot day and a cold one.”

It is difficult to work in front of the camera with a hive.

“I get sleeves for the arms when we change clothes, but there is a scene in the show where I have a small scratch on my left eye. It looks like I was stung by a bee. I think it was a stress hive because it was a sore that didn’t go away for the time we were filming.”

Lachey says that there are Hives in the chair. I was told by the makeup artist that the hive would go away.

“Lachey explains that it could be anything, as the crew tries to figure out if it is a makeup brush or product. I don’t want to freak out, it’s me. It is not you. It will go away when it is me.”

Courtesy of Vanessa Lachey

It is important to consult your doctor on the best method of treatment because everyone is different. Identifying potential triggers can be helpful.

Medication

Your doctor can determine the best course of treatment for your hives. They may suggest prescription options, like omalizumab (Xolair), corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants.

It’s also possible to find relief from over-the-count treatments like antihistamines.

Lachey recalls her frustration trying to find a treatment that works for her. “All of the medications, they make you drowsy,” she explains. After her first child was born, she didn’t feel comfortable using drowsy medications. “I was already sleep-deprived — I was a new mom. I was also breastfeeding, so I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’”

“Lachey didn’t want to have his skin treated. I didn’t want them on my body while I was holding my baby. I surrendered and said that I have to live with it.”

After learning about a new non-drowsy, FDA-approved antihistamine by Allegra formulated to treat hives specifically, Lachey knew she was interested in testing it out and is now the spokesperson for the new over-the-counter medication.

It is formulated to relieve itching and reduce the hive itself. She said that it is the only over-the-counter one that you can take that is non-drowsy.

Those factors are game-changing for me.

Lachey brings it with him. I had it with me when I was on the set of Love is Blind. I will bring it to work for the show. She says that it will be something that is in the makeup trailer.

Keeping comfortable

There is a short list of things you can do that may help.

  • Stay in cool climates during the hot summer months.
  • Take a cold shower.
  • Wear cotton clothing.
  • moisturize the skin well with a hypoallergenic moisturizing cream at least twice daily

Simple and consistent products

People who experience hives many benefit from a consistent skin care routine. “Try to find a routine that works for you and then stick to that,” Lachey suggests.

“Unfortunately, people with hives can’t be too experimental with lotions or products, even sunscreens. You have to be very specific about what your skin is irritated with, so when you find a good rhythm and groove, and you have relief, stick to that.”

I recommend keeping the products to a minimum.

Mehrotra also suggests choosing products with simple and hypoallergenic ingredients. Keep in mind that there’s no regulation on the term “hypoallergenic,” so you’ll have to check labels carefully when shopping, looking for ingredients that may be possible irritants or triggers for you.

A patch test is a great way to test a new product on your skin. If there are any reactions over the next day or so, keep an eye out. This could be redness, itching, or another type of irritation, depending on your skin tone.

“Lachey sticks to certain products to keep her skin clear. She knows when she has a hive that it wasn’t caused by a triggering product.”

“She says it is not as simple as that. You can’t be that girl who asks for a sunscreen. You have to find a solution to your hives.”

An allergist/immunologist is the best specialist to see, and sometimes a dermatologist can also add additional input. There are blood work and other types of testing that can be done to find the cause.

If you are having trouble with your hives or are having a worse one, it would be helpful to see a doctor.

She says that if you have a long-term Hive, it would be good to get checked out by a doctor.

“It’s not unusual for some hives to be painful and inconvenient. There are ways to manage your feelings.”

If you have hives that last for six weeks or more, it is a good idea to visit your doctor. Your doctor may suggest OTC or prescription drugs.

Remember to keep a simple skin care routine that works for you, and be aware of any skin care issues you may have.