UNMC study: Vitamin D provides relief for those with chronic hives

A study by researchers at UNMC shows vitamin D as an add-on therapy could provide some relief for chronic hives, a condition with no cure and few treatment options.

An allergic skin condition, chronic hives create red, itchy welts on the skin and sometimes swelling. They can occur daily and last longer than six weeks, even years.

Jill Poole, M.D., associate professor in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, was principal investigator of a study in the Feb. 7 edition of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The two-year study looked at the role of over-the-counter vitamin D3 as a supplemental treatment for chronic hives.

See the published study here.

Over 12 weeks, 38 study participants daily took a triple-drug combination of allergy medications (one prescription and two over-the-counter drugs) and one vitamin D3, an over-the-counter supplement. Half of the patient’s took 600 IUs of vitamin D3 and the other half took 4000 IUs.

Researchers found after just one week, the severity of patients’ symptoms decreased by 33 percent for both groups. But at the end of three months, the group taking 4000 IUs of vitamin D3 had a further 40 percent decrease in severity of their hives. The low vitamin D3 treatment group had no further improvement after the first week.

“We consider the results in patients a significant improvement,” Dr. Poole said. “This higher dosing of readily available vitamin D3 shows promise without adverse effects. Vitamin D3 could be considered a safe and potentially beneficial therapy.

“It was not a cure, but it showed benefit when added to anti-allergy medications. Patients taking the higher dose had less severe hives — they didn’t have as many hives and had a decrease in the number of days a week they had hives.”

In the study, patients had suffered from five to 20 years with severe hives. Some had been on therapy and others none.

The cause of hives is not generally known, but allergy and autoimmune reactions sometimes play a role. Treatment options for chronic hives are limited.

“Standard therapy is to control symptoms with antihistamines and other allergy medications,” Dr. Poole said. “Some are costly and can pose substantial side effects.”

She said the study didn’t include patients with kidney disease or those with calcium disorders.

The study was funded through a $50,000 grant from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the UNMC Clinical Research Center.



  1. Geri Cohrs says:

    I have been using Vitamin D3 for almost a year now to treat my red,itchy,swelling welts on my legs that I would get every fall and last until late May. I have had this condition for at least 6 years. Topical lotions did not work at all. I did some research on my own and tried the Vitamin D3. My legs have never looked and felt so good, not even any dry skin during the winter. I even told my 85 year father about this because he had the dry itchy rash around his ankles and was in terrible distress. He tried the D3 and the redness is clearing up. D3 is a miracle. I'm so glad I figured it out. Geri C

  2. Vicky says:

    That's great you find it works. I hope Dr. Poole can get funds to do a larger study so that ultimately perhaps more health providers will be able to spread the word.

  3. Northern Light says:

    My chronic hives began last April of 2013. Since finding Dr. Poole's study last August, 2013, I upped my dose that I began in July from 3000iu's a day to 5000iu's a day, I took 5000iu's steady until December 31st. I was able to get off prednisone which I was taking for a month in June, 2 Reactine, 2 Zantac, Benadryl here and there and doxepin which I was taking for 9 months steady every day. I previously had chronic hives in 2010 when my own physician remarked she had noticed many patients coming in with chronic hives. I think I had both of these occurrences of chronic hives due to my moving north and becoming more confined to the indoor lifestyle as I moved to a colder climate and I also believe I suffered a second occurrence because I was 3 years older than before and as you age you are less able to synthesize vitamin d. Because I became obsessed with googling everything I could about vitamin d throughout this 9 month period, I stumbled upon two very helpful books as I weaned myself off my allergy pills and increased my Vitamin d3 dose. One book was called The Miraculous Results of extremely High Doses Of Vitamin D3 by Jeff T. Bowles; I read this book at the end of December which encouraged me to take a higher dose than 5000iu's a day starting January 1st. The reason I decided to take a higher dose was I fell off my front steps onto my tailbone and could not sit without terrible pain for 3 days but on the 4th day of taking 20,000iu's of D3 the pain began to diminish greatly so I continued to take 20,000iu's until the end of January when I thought I was healed from my sore tailbone. My physician had remarked at the beginning of January that it would take a couple of months for the soreness to go away. I had no more pain in one month of taking 20,000iu's of vitamin d a day. Then I reduced the dose to 10,000iu's and have been taking that amount almost all of February which is not over yet. By mid January I also had no more hives to show. The other treatment I gave myself was from Book number two You're not sick, You're Thirsty! by Batmanghelidj. I found this book mid-December, the information about histamine and how it works in the body is invaluable. I have been to an allergy specialist during both chronic hive occurrences, I am not allergic to anything according to the allergist's tests. I think Vitamin d3 deficiency contributes to chronic hives and I also think chronic dehydration is a contributor as during my move I was busy and distracted and it wasn't until I read You're not sick, You're thirsty that I realized I had not been drinking 2 litres of water a day. My husband watched my hives diminish in front of his eyes as I started to drink 2 litres of water a day; it took me about 5 days to become properly hydrated, I have been drinking 2 litres of water a day since mid- December. Now the last influential book I found today to keep me on the path of being free of hives forever is The Power of Vitamin D written by Sarfraz Zaidi, MD. This book gave me the complete overview of my situation since 2010 because this doctor writes about a condition called Hyperparathyroid Disease which I ended up with in 2013 and had my 'inflamed to a grape size' hyperparathyroid gland removed in June 2013 which I now have a one inch scar on my neck. Dr. Zaidi states in his book how this gland fails to work properly when you are deficient in Vitamin D. My blood results in August 2012, March, May and July of 2013 were all deficient in Vitamin D. The reason I was blood tested for Vitamin d is I am a Type 1 Diabetic, so if you do not have a chronic autoimmune disease you could have low vitamin d and never be tested. For example my healthy husband who works outdoors and because I was reading all this information about Low vitamin d he decided to experiment without a blood test first. He took 4000iu's of Vitamin d for 4 months, when he had his blood tested he was low in vitamin d. He had to ask for the Vitamin d test. My husband also was on the verge in the Fall of 2013 with going through with a carpal tunnel syndrome operation on his wrist, that is why he decided to take some vitamin d. Although his vitamin d result was low his wrist improved on 4000iu's of Vitamin d so he does not feel he will be needing an operation. In January because we read that when you live near the equator you get about 20,000iu's of vitamin d, my husband also increased his dose to get his low d blood level up, he will have another blood test at the end of March. My husband also noticed previous aches and pains disappear and I noticed his hair that was turning gray turn brown. All of my blood results are now normal including my Vitamin d, it has taken at least 7 months of taking Vitamin D3 everyday to get those results in the proper place. I am sharing this with the readers because it is devastating when you visit your doctor 10 times in 4 months for more pills and leave the office feeling hopeless. Vitamin D3 should become a mandatory test for all human beings because we would save millions of dollars in health care costs and millions of lives from debilitation and depression. Take enough Vitamin D3 everyday for the rest of your lives, you are all deficient (get your
    25 (OH) Vitamin d, 25 Hydroxyvitamin D) before your health is in trouble!!! It's easier to take Vitamin D3 sublingually, (under the tongue) than taking an insulin needle 6 times a day along with 6 blood tests!!!

  4. Donna Danish says:

    After 9 years of no breakouts, the hives are starting again. Have had outbreaks since March 3. This study mentions two OTC drugs and one prescription. Any information on what these meds are? Currently taking Zyrtec, Zantac and a script.
    Thank you!!

  5. Kim Dobrzynski says:

    As a sufferer of chronic hives, I would like to know what the triple therapy consists of. I have suffered with these for more than 7 years. This past week I had a severe outbreak and have been racking my brain trying to figure out what brought this on again when I have not had an outbreak in years. Then I realized I had lapsed in my OTC antacid by about 3-4 days and also my daily regimen of Vitamin D3. Finding this article was profound as I felt some relief for many hours today after resuming D3. Will have to try upping the dose from 1,000 IU to the 4,000 if this is indeed safe.

  6. Sameerr says:

    Thank you Dr. Poole for a remarkable research. I will surely follow this Medication and i wish you receive more funds in order to do further research. Regards.

  7. jean matteson says:

    I had severe hives for 6 months. 3 rounds of prednisone did nothing but give very temporary relief for a few days. when i went for my annual exam lab results showed very low vitamin d. I was put on 50,000 u per week. Just 2 days after my first dose the hives were completely gone. That was nine months ago. I've had no hives since then.

  8. Stephanie S. says:

    Recently, I had an episode of hives after 7 years. Blood work found that I am vitamin d deficient. I was just prescribed 50,000 per wk of vitamin d. We'll see what happens! I hope this will work. I am optimistic.

  9. Sharon Shapowal says:

    Dear Dr Poole: After 3.5 months of hives on my hands (I'm allergic to nightshades and ate a green pepper dish) and unwilling to take steroids, I started 2000IU of D3 after finding your article. After one week, the hives are nearly gone. Thanks for publishing this intriguing study. Sharon S.

  10. Ramona Taylor says:

    Dr. Poole, you are a life saver! After a stressful episode of a rollover wreck, last year I developed idiopathic chronic hives. They would mostly come at night and sometimes even with angiodema/swollen face. Aloe Vera gel seemed to soothe it for a few hours. I tried everything from changing my diet, fasting afraid to eat, to emergency room asking if I had mites, to finally going to an immunologist where I was put on Zyrtec. To be honest, over the counter Benadryl worked better but the problem was none of those are effective for longer than 3 days with no more doses, they actually seemed to increase the severity of hives, and most importantly I was extremely sleepy and with Zyrtec began to have a weird swollen aching feeling in my feet. I was so worried about how I would function for the new school year as a teacher feeling like a zombie and sleepy. I prayed and was craving eggs! I looked up nutrients in eggs! I stumbled upon vitamin D3 and an article about your research! This was a MIRACLE, and I pray that you continue this research. I thought it was strange that after a long day swimming and I had started back taking my cod liver oil which contains A and D3, I had slightly began to feel better although my hives were still coming. My husband immediately went out to buy me D3, I started taking 6,000 IU, plus vitamin C and still took one Cod liver oil. I am shocked! I'm afraid to ever stop taking this! I also was found to be medium to low thyroid T4 (.8) but was offered no treatment and I begged my immunologist to test my vitamin D3 and it was a 36. This was after I was self medicating on D3 for about two weeks. I told him about this miracle and he didn't seem enthused, saying it was probably going to go away anyway. No way! Now, exactly a year later, I sometimes lower my dose of vitamin D3 to just 4,000 IUs a day instead of 6,000 for fear of toxicity. I'm also an African American female and can't believe we aren't told that darker skin people may be more deficient in vitamin D3! I tell everyone this story and wish I could be involved in a study with you. If anyone is reading this and has questions you can email me at ramonaytaylor@yahoo.com

  11. Kandice says:

    Dr. Poole, I have been suffering with hives for my entire life, I am 28 years old now. This year (I live in Houston), our summer has just started & is extremely hot. My hives came with a vengeance, I wish we could post pictures for others to view and relate. I'm so happy I found this article. I am of West Indian descent, and have always had low levels of vitamin D. For some reason, I thought to google the correlation between hives and vitamin D and came across your study. I hope that you have had success with gaining more grants to pursue this issue as it is incredibly painful, disconcerting, and affects many people from all different races and walks of life. Thank you, I will start taking my vitamin D daily and Ramona, I will start taking cod liver oil.
    Thank you all for sharing!

  12. Katie says:

    My Daughter is 15yrs old. Has been diagnosed with CIU – she is on many OTC antihistamines, singular, doxipen & has had her first shot of Xolair, Prednisone on & off – mostly on – this seems to be the only thing that keeps the hives away. I asked the allergist of the Vitamin D test when we were doing tons of blood work. Hers is low (33) but the allergist didn't suggest Vitamin D supplements – didn't think it would do anything for her. I have come back to this article many times. Her regular Dr just prescribed 10,000IU per day for her. We will start this week. I will update you soon. Keeping finger crossed & LOTS of prayers that this will help her. I am trying to keep the hope – but some days it is not easy! Katie

  13. jazzmyn says:

    I've had chronic hives for almost 10 years, I'm 23 now. Up until a few months ago every dermatologist or rheumatologist told me that I probably had an autoimmune disease which could still stand but I digress. I dealt with hives nearly every day on every inch of my body and on special occasions my lips would swell up three times the normal size along with other random swelling. Now I'm not going to say that this is a cure-all but logically the only thing that I've added to my medicine recently was vitamin D after a random suggestion for my mother. Maybe she read your article LOL. But anyway after dealing with this pretty regularly for the past 10 years as of right now I haven't had hives in 3 months since starting the vitamin D I really hope that this holds up. At times the constant pain and swelling and itching made me contemplate taking my own life but now because of something as simple as an over-the-counter vitamin and a few allergy medicines I can finally picture a future that doesn't involve the hives. Thank you so much for your studies I just hope that other people going through my situation will stumble upon it and give it a try cuz I can truly say that it's saved my life.

  14. Carolyn L. Gale says:

    I believe that I have acute hives since I've had it for more that a year. I want to try what has been suggested but I'm concerned with the side effects of vitamin D. To my understanding it can constipate you. Is that true? I need relief and is willing to try this if is is safe for me.

  15. Lisa says:

    I have been having chronic hives for over 10 years. They usually come in the Summer or Winter when I dress too warm – always happen in the evening and in the middle of the night. I struggled getting enough sleep for the work day. Like everyone else, I was dependent on Allergy medication which made me drowsy. Allergist couldn't fix me. Someone mentioned Vitnamin D but my doctor dismissed it. Recently I suffer from daily episode of hives badly that I could not sleep, I googled and found this article along with all the wonderful comments. I bought Vitamin D3 5,000 IU. I take one daily and I have been itch free!!!! Thank you Dr. Poole!

  16. laurene holcomb says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I just started waking with hives and itching. They start at 8pm and in the morning start to go away. I have terrible allergies in general to environment and medications. No food allergies. I carry an Epipen and had allergy shots for years. This just started and does not feel like my normal allergies. My hair has been falling out a lot and I am so tired. This all just started happening this past 2 weeks. I rarely get sunshine. So I am taking D-3 3000UI I only weigh 124 so will start slow and see what happens. I think this will work. I just can not thank you all for posting and Jill Poole, M.D., and funded through a $50,000 grant from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the UNMC Clinical Research Center. THANK YOU!

  17. Chris says:

    The thought to take Vitamin D for hives is a godsend! I was having bad itching every winter and this winter I started getting hives all the time with the itching. I started doing high doses (5,000 ui) a day, sometimes higher, and the itching and hives stopped completely. I live in high altitude low sun in the winter and have struggled with itching for 20 years. I got a new doctor and he immediately knew what it was.

  18. jeannie thomas says:

    I have had this CIU for so many years I understand the person who said they thought about suicide. Have not gotten that far but can certainly relate. I am suffering so much, I am now going to try the V-D I will try ANYTHING. If a study is available sign me up asap

  19. Mary Jo says:

    I suffer from hives every summer. I always thought it was related to all the stress with summer and schedules. I take vitamin D all winter but stop in the summer. I just realized a couple of days ago it might be the vitamin D that I stop taking. I ran across your article. So very interesting and hopeful. Back on my vitamin D.

  20. Miki says:

    I take D3, but haven't made that connection yet. When my hives glare up, I honestly think it has something to do with the fact that I am severely dehydrated. I have never been a thirsty person, and struggle to make myself drink anything. (I'm trying my hardest to change that.) When my hives do flare up, I start pushing water and take a Benadryl. I haven't been to the doctor about it, but I've had them from head to toe. Anyways, getting enough fluids seems to be the key for mine…just a thought.

  21. Michelle England says:

    I have suffered from hives for 22 years without a day of relief, I started a low histamine diet one week ago, my hives are gone, my lip and eye are not swelling. When I think of all the antilhistamines and steroids I’ve taken over the past 22 years, it makes me sick. My food was killing me. After my daughter researched, I have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, please look into this for people who cannot get to the borrow of their hives. I was at the end of my rope

  22. Michele Zembow says:

    My doctor and I recently discussed Vitamin D treatment for my chronic hives. He suggested that I take Vitamin K2 alongside the D, to address high-dose D’s possible negative side effects. Wanted to pass that information along.

  23. Tara Anderson says:

    Thank you so much for completing this study!!! One year of chronic hives and I’m dying for them to go away!! With all these positive success stories, I can’t wait to start on vitamin D!!!

  24. tom lange says:

    Jill, my daughter has seizures, so is on lots of seizure meds i wouldn't think these vitiamins
    would affect her , i read where constipation is a side effect , she has had hives for over ten years
    bad hives, so we ll give this a shot. thank u tom lange

  25. lesley says:

    It is noontime after taking 5 1000 ius of vitamin d I fell asleep for three hours With No itch ! The hives are lessening ! No prickly skin itch which would bring on hives!I immediately went to iherb and bought 10,000 ius in one pearle,so I don’t need to swallow so many .God bless you for caring about the horror we suffer through!

  26. F Khan says:

    Can anyone please share their experiences after taking Vitamin d ?

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