Hives from anxiety and stress

Can You Get A Skin Rash From Stress?

Skin Care & Beauty

Stress rash often affects people with underlying skin conditions

Stress rash often affects people with underlying skin conditions

Americans are among the most stressed people in the world, according to polls. While stress may be something we feel emotionally, it can have a significant impact on our physical health.

In addition to high blood pressure, headaches and fatigue, skin rashes are common stress symptoms.

What causes stress rash?

Stress rash often affects people who have underlying skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea or allergies caused by environmental triggers, such as pollen, animal dander or certain foods. Some people even develop rashes from sunlight or weather changes. Still, even without an underlying condition, you can still develop stress rash.

“When you’re feeling stress, your body releases chemicals that can cause inflammation and make your skin even more sensitive,” says Erin Lester, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Solana Beach. “This can trigger a flare-up.”

What do stress rashes look like?

Stress rashes often appear as raised red bumps called hives. They can affect any part of the body, but often a stress rash is on the face, neck, chest or arms. Hives may range from tiny dots to large welts and may form in clusters. They may be itchy or cause a burning or tingling sensation.

Stress rash treatment

Stress rash is rarely a serious problem, but if you have difficulty breathing or your throat or lips swell up, call 911 immediately. Your reaction may be caused by something else that could be life-threatening, and you need emergency care.

Fortunately, most stress-induced rashes go away on their own within a few days; however, they can come back. Some may persist for as long as six weeks.

Avoid scratching the rash, which can make it worse and may even spread bacteria through tiny scrapes in the skin.

Home treatments, such as cool compresses and ice packs, can help relieve swelling and itching (but do not apply ice directly to the skin). Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Zyrtec, can also help relieve symptoms. Read the labels carefully as some may cause drowsiness, or ask your pharmacist for a recommendation.

If your rash does not subside within a week, or your symptoms get worse, call your doctor. Depending on your provider, you may not need to make an office visit. Skin rashes often can be diagnosed during a video visit from your mobile phone or tablet.

“If your rash doesn’t respond to home treatment, we may prescribe a stronger antihistamine or a cortisone cream to knock down the inflammation and help your skin heal,” says Dr. Lester.

Preventing stress rash

Stress is simply the body’s reaction to a situation that feels overwhelming or creates anxiety. If you develop stress rash, it may be a warning sign that you need to reduce sources of stress in your life, whether they are related to your job, relationships, finances or other factors.

Even if you can’t change your situation, you can learn to manage how you react to stressful triggers. Once you have more control over stress in your life, you may experience fewer or milder rashes.

Try these tips to help manage stress:

  • Exercise or practice yoga, tai chi or meditation.
  • Seek out a friend for a walk or coffee.
  • Do something fun with your family.
  • Listen to music or read a book.
  • Play an audiobook or podcast.

In some cases, what you think is a stress rash may actually be caused by something else, such as eczema or insect bites. Contact dermatitis, which is a rash caused by contact with something you are allergic to, such as a chemical or fabric, may be another possibility.

If you seem to get frequent stress rashes, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. Together, you can determine the cause and develop a plan to reduce your outbreaks.

    Related tags:
  • Health and Wellness
  • Wellness & Prevention
  • Family Medicine
  • Skin Care & Beauty
  • Mental Health

Anxiety rash: Symptoms, treatment, and prevention

Anxiety can increase the release of certain chemicals in the body which then produce physical reactions. This can lead to an itchy skin rash or hives, which may occur anywhere on the body. Learning to manage anxiety can help to treat and prevent anxiety rash.

An anxiety rash may appear as an itchy rash or as hives on the body. It is due to high levels of anxiety, rather than other causes such as allergies.

Topical treatments or antihistamines may help to relieve symptoms short-term, but long-term treatment will involve coping techniques for managing anxiety and reducing stress. Reducing anxiety can help to treat and prevent anxiety rash.

In this article, we look at symptoms, causes, and potential emotional effects of anxiety rash. We also look at treatment, prevention, and how to tell if a rash is due to anxiety or another cause.

An anxiety rash is an itchy rash that may look similar to hives. It is due to anxiety rather than any other factors, such as certain foods or medications.

Research has found that chronic anxiety increases the sympathetic nervous system response to stress. This response releases histamine, a substance the body usually releases to respond to any injury, inflammation, or allergic reaction. An increased release of histamine may lead to a rash or hives.

Emotional effects of an anxiety rash

Anxiety rash may cause people to feel more anxiety or embarrassment, due to the symptoms or appearance of the rash. Although people may try to hide the rash, covering the rash with makeup, lotions, or tight clothing may worsen the rash.

A rash from stress or anxiety usually resolves in 24 hours, and topical treatments may help to reduce the rash and any uncomfortable symptoms.

Focusing on calming techniques and tools to reduce anxiety may help people feel less anxious, and also help to treat the rash.

An anxiety rash may affect anyone who experiences anxiety. People may experience anxiety for a number of reasons, which include:

  • Genetics. Research has found people with relatives who have an anxiety disorder may be more likely to also experience anxiety.
  • Environmental factors. Stressful life events, trauma, grief, abuse, or prolonged illness may all contribute to anxiety.

If people have an anxiety rash, they may have the following symptoms:

  • rash feels itchy or irritated
  • small bumps or papules on the skin
  • hives, or raised welts on the skin
  • rash may appear in relation to high levels of anxiety or stress, with no other clear factors
  • rash may resolve in 24 hours

Alongside rash symptoms, people may be experiencing high levels of anxiety or stress. Symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • feeling apprehension or dread around nonthreatening situations
  • feeling jumpy, tense, or on edge
  • feeling restless or irritable
  • anticipating the worst happening, (which mental health professionals call catastrophizing)
  • being watchful for any signs of danger, (which some experts call hypervigilance)

Other physical symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • pounding or racing heart
  • shortness of breath
  • increased sweating
  • tremors and twitches
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • upset stomach or digestive issues
  • frequent need to urinate
  • diarrhea

If people experience anxiety symptoms on a consistent basis, they may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are common and have a range of highly effective treatment options.

To tell if anxiety is causing a rash, or if it is due to another cause, people can try to eliminate all other possible causes. Other factors that may be causing a rash can include:

  • allergy to certain food or medication
  • contact dermatitis, due to a reaction to ingredients in topical lotions, makeup, bathing products, jewelry, or clothes detergent
  • contact with certain plants, such as poison ivy
  • illness, such as measles or chickenpox
  • skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis

If people have eliminated all other possible causes, and notice a rash develops in relation to experiencing high levels of anxiety or stress, it may be an anxiety rash.

A 2016 case study notes that controlling anxiety may be an effective treatment for anxiety rash. Although medication may also have been a factor, a female who developed a rash in relation to panic attacks found that the rash resolved with improved anxiety control.

Treatment for anxiety may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is the most researched form of psychotherapy to treat anxiety disorders. It helps people to develop strategies to change thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that cause anxiety.
  • Exposure response prevention: A type of psychotherapy to treat specific forms of anxiety, such as phobias or social anxiety. It exposes people to the source of their anxiety in order to develop coping strategies and reduce anxiety over time.
  • Medications: Anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications may help to relieve both emotional and physical anxiety symptoms.

Topical treatments may help to relieve symptoms and reduce a rash. Taking an antihistamine may help to control hives. Antihistamine medication works to block the histamine response in the body, which can help to prevent any new hives from forming.

Applying a cold compress or topical steroid, such as hydrocortisone, to a rash may help to relieve itching.

According to The American Institute of Stress, some people may find applying full-fat milk to irritated skin may provide soothing effects, due to the fat content in milk.

If a rash worsens or is not responding to treatment, then people should see their doctor.

People can also see their doctor if anxiety is affecting their day-to-day life, or if anxiety and any symptoms are having a negative effect on a person’s well-being.

A doctor may prescribe topical treatments to relieve symptoms and can suggest a treatment plan for managing anxiety.

A rash can sometimes be a sign of a serious infection or severe allergic reaction. People will need to seek help straight away if they have a rash with any of the following symptoms or features:

  • covers most of the body
  • fever
  • appears suddenly and spreads quickly
  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • blistering or open sores
  • pain
  • swelling or warmth around rash
  • crusting, a red streak, or yellow or green fluid coming from the rash

Managing anxiety may help to prevent anxiety rash. A range of lifestyle changes and coping strategies may help. People may want to try the following techniques to find a combination of tools that work best for them:

  • regular meditation
  • mindfulness activities
  • breathing exercises
  • yoga
  • regular exercise, in particular aerobic exercise
  • understanding personal triggers
  • setting aside a set time to worry before releasing it, to allow more control over each day
  • listening to music
  • eating a nutritious, balanced diet
  • getting regular, quality sleep
  • limiting alcohol and caffeine, which may trigger panic attacks
  • counting to 10 slowly when feeling anxious
  • finding humor and laughing
  • focusing on replacing negative thoughts with positive ones
  • connecting with a local community (find a support network, or volunteer as a break from everyday situations)
  • talking to friends, family, or a healthcare professional if feeling overwhelmed

Anxiety can cause physical reactions in the body, including a rash or hives.

If the body is in a constant state of “fight, flight, or freeze” mode, it can cause an increase in certain chemicals, such as histamine. This can lead to the development of a rash or hives.

Topical treatments can help to treat the rash in the short-term, while long-term management of anxiety can help to treat and prevent anxiety rash from reoccurring.

what is stress, how does it lead to disease and can it cause hives

Daniil Davydov

medical journalist

Author profile

Chronic stress increases the risk of developing many diseases: from cardiovascular diseases to stomach ulcers.

But the disease will not develop unless other factors also act on the person, such as the invasion of harmful microbes, smoking, overeating, or heredity. Therefore, it is wrong to say that people suffer from allergies and dermatitis due to strong feelings or overload at work. nine0003

What is stress

Stress is a normal reaction of the body to sudden changes in the surrounding world that cannot be ignored. Stress helps us to mobilize and avoid danger - for example, dodging a person on an electric scooter, whom we did not even see a moment ago.

Understanding Stress - Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia

How the Brain Regulates Stress - Cleveland Clinic Bulletin

The command center in the brain controls the stress response. From the brain to each organ, nerves descend, united in a thick cable, which we know as the spinal cord. nine0003

Nerve fibers belonging to the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system run from the spinal cord to almost every blood vessel, sweat gland and muscle.

If something unexpected suddenly happens around us, the sympathetic nervous system orders our internal organs to mobilize. At her command, the pupils dilate, breathing and heart rate accelerate, and the liver releases glucose stores into the blood - the fuel that the muscles urgently need to fight or flight. At the same time, digestion is suppressed, because the body is not up to digesting food now. As a result, we come to a state of full combat readiness. nine0003

Once the danger has passed, the parasympathetic system comes into play. She gives the whole body the “Free” command: constricts the pupils, slows down breathing and heart rate, and allows the digestive system to continue working normally. The liver stops releasing glucose into the blood and focuses on the production of bile, which is needed for digestion. As a result, we gradually calm down.


Exercise, sleep and seafood instead of meat: 8 more healthy habits

The parasympathetic nervous system helps us relax and the sympathetic nervous system mobilizes us The parasympathetic nervous system helps us relax and the sympathetic nervous system mobilizes us

The normal stress response saved us in ancient times when humans were hunters and gatherers. In those days, stress was short-lived. If it was possible to successfully catch up with prey or avoid meeting with a flock of hyenas, people immediately calmed down, because nothing else threatened them.

When mankind moved from deserts and forests to big cities, there were fewer reasons for short-term stress. But new sources of stress have appeared, like unloved work or crowds in the subway, which affect us for years. As a result, the stress became chronic. Unlike short-term stress, which saves a person's life, chronic stress is not at all useful for health. nine0003

How Stress Increases the Risk of Disease

Because stress is a complex response that involves the entire body, exposure to stress increases the risk of both mental and physical illness.

Mental illness. When stress reactions last not for a few minutes or hours, but for months and years, the sympathetic nervous system is constantly on edge. As a result, a healthy person spends too much energy on the most common household tasks and gradually loses strength. The less strength a person has, the higher the risk that he will not cope with a difficult life test, such as losing a job or divorce, and will fall ill, for example, with depression. nine0003

If the sympathetic nervous system is constantly activated, the risk of depression increases - Journal of Modern Neuropharmacology

Chronic diseases. Stress is even more dangerous for people who have a predisposition or have already developed some kind of disease. For example, chronic stress increases heart rate and blood pressure. In a person with cardiovascular disease, an additional load on the heart and blood vessels can provoke a heart attack. nine0003

Chronic Stress and the Heart - Journal of the American Medical Association

Chronic Stress - a Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes - Nature

Chronic Stress May Accelerate Cancer - Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

Much the same way - overexertion already damaged systems - stress can trigger the onset of illness in people with a predisposition to type 2 diabetes, cancer and some other diseases. nine0003

Infectious diseases. Chronic stress directly affects the immune system - it increases the level of suppressor T-lymphocytes. The task of these immune cells is to keep the inflammatory process under control and prevent the immune system from destroying the organism itself along with microbes. But if suppressor T cells turn on for no reason, they begin to suppress the normal immune response. It is known that this increases the risk of contracting a viral infection.

Chronic Stress Disrupts the Immune System - Journal of Stress and Immunity in Space

Wounds and injuries. Wound healing begins with inflammation of the damaged area of ​​the body. This allows you to destroy microbes and damaged cells. Then the cells in the damaged area begin to intensively divide, and the wound heals. By suppressing inflammation, chronic stress prevents wounds from healing normally.

Psychological Stress Interferes with Wound Healing - Journal of the Immunology and Allergy Clinic of North America

Generally, chronic stress increases the risk of disease by acting as a straw that breaks the back of an already overworked camel. But this does not mean at all that if people with a predisposition to chronic diseases did not stand in traffic jams, did not communicate with quarrelsome neighbors or with harmful bosses, and were not nervous for other reasons, then they would not get sick. nine0003

The role of the last straw can be played not only by chronic stress, but also by other factors, such as a viral infection. Science knows cases when people with a predisposition to autoimmune diseases fell ill with them after they had a rotavirus infection or caught the herpes virus.

Viruses and Autoimmune Diseases - Viruses Magazine

Are Stress, Urticaria, and Allergies Linked

Allergy is an immune system error that occurs when it mistakes a harmless protein from food, pollen or dust for a dangerous microbe and tries to destroy. For most allergies, the immune system uses its favorite superweapon, a biologically active substance called histamine. nine0003

Understanding Allergies - NHS

Genetic Predisposition Increases the Risk of Allergies - Nature

Histamine causes blood vessels to spasm, causing swelling and triggering inflammation. As a result, a person's snot flows, his eyes turn red, and an itchy rash appears on the skin. Skin manifestations of allergies are called atopic dermatitis, or urticaria.

Today, most allergists believe that chronic stress cannot cause an initially well-functioning immune system to start making mistakes. Although the causes of allergies are not yet fully understood, it is believed that many people are already born with a genetic predisposition to allergies. Stress, even chronic, is not able to reshape the genome. nine0003

Stress and Allergic Diseases - Journal of the Immunology and Allergy Clinic of North America

On the other hand, stress is quite capable of provoking an extraordinary attack in an already allergy-prone person. It can also make an allergy attack more severe.

It works like this. When a person suffering from hives becomes upset, their sympathetic nervous system dilates their blood vessels. This causes immune cells to release more histamine, and as a result, the rash becomes even more itchy. nine0003


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How to reduce chronic stress

It is not possible for a modern city dweller to completely avoid exposure to factors that cause chronic stress. But we can try to adjust the intensity of the impact of sources of chronic stress on our lives.

How to Beat Chronic Stress - Bulletin of the American Psychological Association, APA

Here's what experts from the American Psychological Association advise you to do. nine0003

Limit the interference of stressors. Try to make a list of all the projects and commitments that make you nervous or overwhelmed. Leave only those items in the list of daily tasks that you can’t do without, for example, exams or trips on the subway.

If work tasks cause a lot of stress, it makes sense to discuss this with the manager. It may be possible to distribute the load. It may turn out that one of your colleagues could perform a task that causes you great discomfort without any problems, and in return you could take on some of his tasks. nine0003

Complain to a loved one. Some people experience chronic stress from not telling anyone that times are hard. This does not mean that it is worth turning into a whiner. But many people feel better simply by telling their loved ones about their problems.

There is nothing wrong with occasionally asking a friend or relative for support. Perhaps they, too, have encountered similar problems and know how to solve them. For example, they will advise a convenient way to streamline work tasks or give the contact of a proven psychologist or psychotherapist. nine0003


Sports, humor and massage: 10 proven ways to deal with stress at work

Cut down on coffee. Caffeine invigorates, but in too large quantities it can also provoke nervousness. Try limiting yourself to one cup of morning coffee. If before that you often drank this drink during the working day, it may become easier.

Add daily walks to your schedule. Physical activity increases the concentration of endorphins - chemical compounds that improve mood and reduce stress levels. Not every job allows you to go to the gym, but you can almost always find time for a half-hour walk around the house or office, or at least to the subway. nine0003

Get enough sleep. A healthy 7-8 hour sleep reduces the harmful effects of stress. But the catch is that chronic stress itself disrupts sleep, and a vicious circle is obtained.

In addition to the usual advice to eat less at night, avoid glowing gadgets and sleep in the dark, you can try to get into the habit of writing down all disturbing thoughts in a notebook. It works in much the same way as complaining to a loved one, that is, it reduces stress. After you write everything down, the chances of falling asleep increase. nine0003

If all else fails, seek help. Some people find it easier to cope with chronic stress when they work with a psychologist or psychotherapist. True, sometimes it’s not easy to find a specialist that is right for you, and services can be expensive: in different cities, an appointment costs 1,500-5,000 R. Most people feel better after the tenth appointment.


How to choose a psychotherapist

What is the result

  1. Short-term stress is a normal physiological reaction that helps to survive in emergency situations.
  2. Chronic stress is unhealthy because it weakens the body and increases the likelihood of disease in people with a predisposition.
  3. Chronic stress can provoke and exacerbate the symptoms of many diseases, but does not in itself cause allergies or urticaria.

Urticaria: in search of a cause to prevent complications

Urticaria triggers

Examples of known triggers that can cause a characteristic skin rash include: foods such as peanuts, nuts, shellfish, nutritional supplements, eggs, strawberries and wheat products, viral infections, including influenza, common cold (SARS), mononucleosis and hepatitis B, bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections, intestinal parasites, chronic diseases such as thyroid disease or lupus extreme temperatures or changes in temperature household triggers: the epidermis of pets, dust mites, cockroaches and their waste products, latex, pollen, and some plants, including nettles, poison ivy, insect stings, certain chemicals, exposure to sunlight, and even in ode left on the skin after bathing. nine0003

The exact cause of urticaria is easier to determine by contacting a doctor. Keeping a diary that takes into account the circumstances under which a skin rash develops, as well as recording its frequency, helps to quickly identify the trigger for hives.

Two types of urticaria

Acute urticaria, which occurs under the influence of an allergen, develops as follows: in response to contact with a trigger, pro-inflammatory molecules such as histamine are synthesized. After that, histamine and other pro-inflammatory substances cause inflammation and accumulation of fluid under the skin, which is manifested by the development of a whole range of unpleasant symptoms - redness, itching, irritation, edematous rash, etc. nine0167 Chronic urticaria (rash persisting for more than six weeks) may begin as an autoimmune reaction, the cause of which is not fully established. With the development of chronic urticaria, diseases of the thyroid gland, hepatitis can be associated.

Symptomatic treatment of acute urticaria

Non-sedating antihistamines can help relieve the symptoms of acute urticaria and must be taken regularly, sometimes for several weeks. Antihistamines help by blocking histamine synthesis, thereby reducing inflammation, rashes, and stopping itching. nine0003

Some antihistamines cause drowsiness, especially if the patient also consumes alcohol while taking them. Some of these medicines are not suitable for use during pregnancy. Therefore, to choose the optimal drug, it is better to consult a doctor.

In case of emergencies

Patients with angioedema should definitely see a doctor - they will need to see an allergist, immunologist or dermatologist as this condition can cause serious breathing problems, potentially fatal. nine0003

Angioedema is characterized by severe swelling around the eyes and lips, and sometimes also in the genitals, arms and legs. It may last longer than acute urticaria, but usually resolves in less than 24 hours.

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