Oral steroids ( prednisone , [ Medrol ]) can help severe cases of hives in the short term, but their usefulness is limited by the fact that many cases of hives last too long for steroid use to be continued safely. Other treatments have been used for urticaria as well, including montelukast ( Singulair ), ultraviolet radiation , antifungal antibiotics, agents that suppress the immune system, and tricyclic antidepressants ( amitriptyline [ Elavil , Endep ], nortriptyline [ Pamelor , Aventyl], doxepin [Sinequan, Adapin]). Evidence to support the benefit of such treatments is sparse. In ordinary cases, they are rarely needed. A new treatment recently available for chronic urticaria is the monthly subcutaneous injection of a monoclonal antibody, omalizumab ( Xolair ), directed against the IgE receptor on human mast cells.
The most common side effect of topical corticosteroid use is skin atrophy. All topical steroids can induce atrophy, but higher potency steroids, occlusion, thinner skin, and older patient age increase the risk. The face, the backs of the hands, and intertriginous areas are particularly susceptible. Resolution often occurs after discontinuing use of these agents, but it may take months. Concurrent use of topical tretinoin (Retin-A) % may reduce the incidence of atrophy from chronic steroid applications. 30 Other side effects from topical steroids include permanent dermal atrophy, telangiectasia, and striae.