Stress Rash: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment


  • A stress rash resembles raised red bumps that clump together in large stumps or small spots.
  • Stress rashes can appear anywhere on the body from the arms and legs to the face and back.
  • To treat a stress rash, take antihistamines, apply a cold compress, and try to reduce your stress.
  • Visit the Insider Health Reference Library for more tips.

While some people may have headaches or have difficulty sleeping when they are under stress, others may develop a rash.

Stress rashes are common and usually not a cause for concern, he says Patrick Lee, MD, Vice-Chair in the department of dermatology and clinical professor in UCI School of Medicine. However, they can be pruritus and uncomfortable.

This is why your body could develop a rash under stress and how long it could last and what you can do to treat it.

What looks like a stress rash?

A stress rash usually appears as raised red bumps called urticaria, he says Niket Sonpal, MD, assistant professor attached to the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. They can form in groups and look like large stumps or small spots.

Symptoms of a stress rash include:

  • Itching
  • Red
  • Swelling
  • Spotted skin
  • A feeling of burning or tingling when the rash is touched

A stress rash can be anywhere, Lee says, but it’s more likely to appear in areas where your skin bends or rubs against clothing, such as:

  • Armpits
  • In your belt where the waistband of your pants could fit
  • Fold it in your elbow
  • Back to the knee

Because a stress rash looks similar to other types of hives, it can be difficult to self-diagnose, says Lee. However, it is probably a stress rash if you have experienced a period of stress and there is no other probable cause, such as 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 disappears in a few days or weeks. But sometimes hives can persist much longer, Sonpal says.

Beehives lasting more than six weeks are considered chronic. If your hives persist for a long time, consult your doctor or dermatologist. Chronic urticaria could be a sign of one underlying medical condition, such as celiac disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

What causes a stress rash?

Hives occur when the body releases a so-called compound histamine in response to an allergen. However, stress can also activate histamine release, resulting in hives, Lee says.


“Stress is often significant and persistent enough to generate this reaction,” he says.

Stress also increases heart rate and body temperature, which can cause the skin to become inflamed and red, Lee says. These physical responses to stress can also I suffer from pre-existing skin conditions, such as rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema.

In fact, a 2018 study examining how stress affects the skin Medical students found that those who reported the highest levels of stress also showed a variety of skin symptoms, including dandruff, pimples, hair loss and itchy skin. Of the 1,435 participants, 40% reported having itchy skin and rashes.

How to get rid of a stress rash

Stress bees often resolve on their own in a few days, Lee says, but they can persist if your stress level remains high. Reducing stress yes meditate, deep breathing, or exercising can help your body relax and heal hives.

Here are some other ways to treats a stress rash it relieves itching, swelling and pain:

  • Take oral antihistamines without a prescription, such as Benadryl or Claritin.
  • Apply topical cortisone without a prescription, such as hydrocortisone.
  • Ask your doctor about a topical steroid prescription.
  • Put a fresh tablet soak the beehives or take a cool bath.
  • Gently rub the aloe vera over your hives. Aloe vera contains anti-inflammatory properties which can help relieve itching and soothe the skin.

Take away the Insider

A stress rash usually appears as hives. It can appear anywhere on the body and can itch or swell.

Practice stress management through activities such as

or exercise is the first line of defense against a stress rash. In addition to this, you can alleviate the discomfort from a stress rash with over-the-counter antihistamines or topical steroids.

If your hives persist for more than six weeks, consult with your doctor who may be able to prescribe medication or determine if your hives are due to a underlying medical condition such as celiac disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

Also, if they are accompanied by nausea or diarrhea, seek immediate medical attention as it could be an allergic reaction.

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