What To Do When Stress Gives You Hives
Most people associate hives the raised, puffy welts on your skin that spread when scratched with an allergic reaction, but there are a number of factors that can cause them. One of these factors is stress, and if you find yourself breaking out in hives without another likely cause, its possible that stress is to blame. We spoke to Mary Stevenson, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone, to learn more about what causes stress hives, and what to do and what not to do if you have them.
What do stress hives look like?Stress hives can look a little like bug bites: both are red, puffy, and itchy, and may appear initially as individual bumps, says Stevenson. However, hives are more often irregular in shape and can join together in larger patches, especially if you scratch them. A bad case of hives may appear as a single large patch of puffy, raised skin.
Why do I have hives?If youre noticing hives or a rashlike reaction, its wise to do a survey of your last few days to look for possible causes before deciding stress is to blame, says Stevenson. Maybe you changed your laundry detergent that week, or you ate all these new foods or started a new medication, she says. Unlike stress, many of these are factors that can be easily eliminated.
When Do Rashes Appear And How Long Do They Last
When exactly the rash occurs during COVID-19 can vary. In some instances, it may appear at COVID-19 symptom onset, while in others, it may happen several days after other symptoms have developed.
According to information from the American Academy of Dermatology, COVID-19 rash can last 2 to 12 days. On average, most people have a rash for 8 days. However, rashes impacting the toes may last 10 to 14 days.
Anxiety Can Make Your Rash Worse
Many of those with anxiety see a rash and respond in ways that are counterproductive to its treatment. For example:
- They may cover it up with long sleeves preventing it from breathing.
- They may try to wash their skin too much, leading to skin irritation.
- They may experience more anxiety because of their anxiety rash, leading to a longer lasting rash.
It’s important to understand your own anxiety and how you react to it before you can effectively treat it.
Anxiety has a profound effect on the body – more than we used to believe. Rashes are yet another example of an anxiety problem that looks like a physical problem. Control your anxiety, and you can control your rashes.
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Do Preexisting Skin Conditions Make A Stress Rash Worse
Other skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis can make stress rashes worse so if stress is making these skin issues worse you should discuss stress reduction therapies with your doctor.
If you have a medical condition, that can make stress rashes worse too, including but not limited to:
- Atopic dermatitis, which is also called eczema
- Psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis also called dandruff
- Lichen planus, which is a condition that causes purple hives
- Rosacea is a common skin condition that can also make your stress rash worse by inflaming your facial skin
If you suffer from another chronic skin condition please talk to your dermatologist if you develop a stress rash to determine the best treatment plan for you.
Why Does The Body React To Stress This Way
When you’re stressed, your body’s cortisol levels begin to increase, leading to increased oil production that can cause acne breakouts, and revving up your body’s histamine response, or a release of inflammatory chemicals that often make you feel uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, how that histamine response results in a rash or flare-up of your other skin conditions is still unclear. “We don’t know how or why the skin responds to your stress hormones, but it’s not a direct relationship,” says Dr. Nazarian. “We may not know exactly why the trigger happens, but we know how to fix it.”
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How Do You Treat An Itchy Stress Rash
Over-the-counter antihistamines are usually the best way to treat stress rashes. Cool compresses and hydrocortisone creams may help, too.
Top over the counter antihistamines for a stress rash are:
If you arent getting enough relief from these methods, you may want to speak to a doctor about other options.
Alternative Remedies For Hives
Here are some other methods to treat hives naturally:
1. Herbal teas: Some top teas with antihistamine and hypoallergenic properties include goldenseal, green tea, chamomile, and devils claw.
2. Aloe vera: Aloe vera gel is another way to relieve itching and redness from hives. Use aloe vera gel for immediate soothing and temporary relief.
3. Other herbs: Stinging nettle, basil, burdock root, milk thistle, coltsfoot, grape seed extract, sarsaparilla, red alder bark, licorice root, valerian, peppermint, ginkgo biloba, and pine bark extract are also used to treat hives.
4. Other supplements: Other supplements that can treat hives naturally include vitamin B12, fish oils, magnesium, vitamin D3, and apple cider vinegar.
5. An oatmeal bath is another great way to get rid of hives quickly. You will want to rub uncooked oatmeal and baking soda on your affected hives outbreak.
6. Acupuncture, reflexology, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy are other ways to get rid of hives fast.
McKoy, K., Hives, MSD Manual Consumer Version web site , last accessed September 3, 2015.
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How To Prevent A Stress Rash
The only way out to prevent a stress rash is to steer clear from stress. Avoid things that may cause stress like difficult relationships, situations or excessive work pressure. Indulging in the following activities can also reduce your stress levels:
- Physical exercise
- A healthy diet
Stress is inevitable. It is a part of life. However, it is entirely on you that how you manage it. Try to remain positive in every situation and ward off negative thoughts and people that can stress you out. Excessive stress is indeed not great for your health. A stress rash is just a symptom of it, and results can be much more worrisome.
Try the home remedies mentioned above for how to get rid of a stress rash to clear the bothersome rash alongside making some positive changes in your lifestyle.
When Should You See A Doctor
While hives are common, in rare cases they can become extremely serious and warrant immediate medical attention.
Chronic hives in particular warrant a trip to the doctor to figure out the root cause, says Dr. Bickle. But she warns that this may be a long, difficult road.
It can sometimes be hard to determine the cause of chronic urticaria, which can make it challenging to treat, she says. Treating the causative agent, if it can be identified, is the most appropriate way to treat.
If the cause cant be determined or if exposure is unavoidable, then nonsedating antihistamines and new medications called biologics, including omalizumab, can help, she says.
Even if theyre not chronic, hives that continue to worsen need medical attention, so get yourself to a doctor. A medical professional can prescribe oral steroids and/or an EpiPen to resolve your reaction, says Dr. Waples.
If your lips or tongue begin to swell or if you have difficulty breathing, seek emergency care immediately.
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Remedies And Treatments For Hives
Managing a case of hives can involve relying on home remedies and over-the-counter medication. You may also try making small lifestyle changes to lessen the instances of coming across a trigger that will make your skin erupt in hives.
Over-the-Counter Oral Antihistamines
Benadryl , Claritin , and Zyrtec are over-the-counter oral medications that can help reduce the uncomfortable itchiness and redness from hives.
Antihistamines work on histamine, which is released by mast cells â a certain type of immune system cell â in the presence of an allergen or an irritant.
Anti-Itch Creams and Lotions
You can use over-the-counter topical treatments like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, too.
However, some people can be sensitive to certain topical medications. Children may have a bad reaction to corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone cream. Topical treatment is also not recommended if the affected area is sore, infected, or features an open wound. Hives with these features may only worsen if you treat them with lotions or creams.
Cooling Home Treatments
When you have hives, a cooling sensation may comfort you and draw your attention away from the discomfort caused by skin irritation. Apply cold and wet compresses, use ice on the affected areas, or take a cold bath.
You may also keep some over-the-counter lotions and creams in the fridge, so itâs cool to the touch when you need to apply it on your skin.
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How To Treat Hives
There are many ways to treat hives, says Dr. Waples, and luckily many treatments work quickly.
“Most hives go away within 15 minutes of application of medications,” she says. “But they can frequently come back in crops, every four to six hours, and this can sometimes go on for a couple of days while you are working whatever the offending substance was out of your body.”
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How Do You Treat Stress Rash In The Long
The clue is in the name, you need to work on your stress levels. ‘I definitely recommend speaking with a counsellor or other healthcare professional if your stress rash is persistent,’ says Dr Granite.
‘Other stress reducing options that may help include:’
- any type of exercise, from walking and running to dancing and HIIT
Felton adds that sleep is: ‘Fundamental in helping to stabilise all of our bodys functions from keeping us creative to lowering the cortisol levels induced by stress.
‘Sleep deprivation will have an impact on skins hydration, regeneration and nourishment. Most importantly it can also induce inflammation, which can also cause the appearance of certain skin conditions and diseases.’
If you think your gut, rather than your brain could be stressed out then be sure to try a course of probiotics. Plus: nourish your gut with food rich in prebiotics and probiotics to keep your microbiome happy. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, fermented food are great to boost your guts protective role, recommends Felton.
Stress rash still persisting, after you’ve checked in with your GP and taken their advice? An appointment with Dr Granite at Mallucci London is £250, while the Lion/ne team offers consultations on skincare products from £35.
When You Have Flare
Make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist, allergist, or primary care doctor. Most people who have hives are otherwise healthy, but its still helpful to see a doctor.A thorough medical exam can help rule out possible causes, such as an infection or medication, which could be causing your hives.Its also possible for a disease, such as a thyroid condition, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes to cause hives. If signs indicate that this may be the cause, medical testing can find or rule out these causes.While medications and medical conditions can cause hives, there are many other causes, including foods, insect bites, and pressure on the skin. Sometimes, its not possible to find the cause. If that happens, your dermatologist can still recommend lifestyle changes and prescribe medication that can help reduce your flare-ups.
Take photos of your hives. When your see your dermatologist, you may not have hives. Taking pictures can help your dermatologist make sure you have hives. Other skin conditions can look like hives.
Relieve the itch at home. Itch is common in people who have chronic hives. Here are some ways to get temporary relief:
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Wear Loose And Lightweight Clothes
Disrupt your daily wearing routines with the purpose of preventing the breaking-out of hives throughout other parts of your body. Your skin has a stronger power to recover, breathe and combat with hives when it is covered with loose and lightweight costumes. Cotton is the best option during this tiring time.
How To Get Rid Of A Stress Rash
Stress hives often resolve on their own within a few days, Lee says, but they can persist if your stress level remains high. Reducing stress by meditating, deep breathing, or exercising can help your body relax and heal the hives.
Here are some other ways to treat a stress rash and relieve itching, swelling, and pain:
- Take over-the-counter oral antihistamines, like Benadryl or Claritin.
- Apply over-the-counter topical cortisones, like hydrocortisone.
- Ask your doctor about a prescription topical steroid.
- Place a cool compress over the hives or take a cool bath.
- Gently rub aloe vera on your hives. Aloe vera contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease itching and soothe skin.
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Common Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of hives can include:
- Swelling of the surface of the skin into red or skin-colored welts with clearly defined edges.
- Wheals are typically round or oval and can get bigger, spread, and join together to form larger areas of flat, raised skin.
- Wheals can also change shape, disappear, and reappear within minutes or hours.
- You know you have hives when you press the center of a wheal and it turns white. This is called blanching.
Hives can appear on any area of the body, especially on the trunk, thighs, upper arms and face.
Do Use Otc Antihistamines
A 24-hour over-the-counter antihistamine like Claritin, Zyrtec, or diphenhydramine , can help relieve itching and discomfort, says Sarina Elmariah, MD, PhD, a board-certified dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Antihistamines are designed to reduce or block histamine, a chemical in your body thats responsible for hives welt-like bumps and itching. If you break out in hives again after the medicine wears off, take it for three to five days and then stop to see if you get more hives. If so, you should see your doctor, Dr. Elmariah says and you can continue taking the antihistamine until you do so or your doctor tells you otherwise.
Taking medication at this point is more about preventing another versus treating the existing one, says Adam Friedman, MD, a professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC.
But dont reach for aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as they could make your hives worse, he says.
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What Does A Stress Rash Look Like
A stress rash usually appears as raised red bumps called hives, says Niket Sonpal, MD, adjunct assistant professor at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. They can form in clusters and look like large welts or tiny dots.
Symptoms of a stress rash include:
- Blotchy skin
- A burning or tingling sensation when the rash is touched
A stress rash can occur anywhere, Lee says, but is more likely to show up in areas where your skin folds or rubs against clothing, like:
- On your waist where the waistband of your pants might sit
- The crease in your elbow
- Behind the knee
Because a stress rash looks similar to other types of hives, it can be difficult to self-diagnose, Lee says. However, it’s most likely a stress rash if you’ve been experiencing a period of stress and there is no other likely cause, like allergies or illness.
In fact, a 2008 study found that short-term financial, personal, or professional stress can cause an acute form of hives that fades within a few days or weeks. But sometimes hives can persist for much longer, Sonpal says.
Hives that last longer than six weeks are considered chronic. If your hives persist for this long, consult with your doctor or a dermatologist. Chronic hives could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, like celiac disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
Whats The Best Way To Treat A Rash From Covid
If you develop an unexplained rash, its a good rule of thumb to talk with a doctor. COVID-19 rashes may appear very similar to rashes caused by other medical conditions that need treatment.
The only way to be sure if your rash is due to COVID-19 is to get a COVID-19 test.
Most rashes that happen with COVID-19 will go away in about a week. Meanwhile, you can help treat a COVID-19 rash at home by doing the following:
- Applying a cool compress: Placing a cool compress onto the affected area may help to ease swelling or itching.
- Trying an oatmeal bath: Indulging in an oatmeal bath can potentially work to soothe irritated skin.
- Using over-the-counter topicals: OTC topical products may help to alleviate itching or swelling associated with some types of COVID-19 rash. Some examples to look into include hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.
- Taking OTC antihistamines:OTC antihistamines may help to reduce symptoms associated with hive-like COVID-19 rash.
- Avoiding scratching: It may be tempting to pick at or scratch a rash, particularly if its itchy. Try to avoid doing this, as it can increase the risk of infection, scarring, or skin pigmentation changes.
Your doctor may also prescribe a prescription medication to help with a COVID-19 rash. These may include corticosteroids in a topical or oral formulation.
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