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What Do Stress Hives Look Like? Signs & Symptoms

Stress hives can look like insect bites—red, swollen, itchy bumps with irregular shapes. They may initially appear as individual bumps but combine to form larger patches

Stress hives can look like insect bites—red, swollen, itchy bumps with irregular shapes. They may initially appear as individual bumps but combine to form larger patches, especially if you scratch them.

Most hives are caused by allergic reactions. However, if there is no other cause that can be traced, the problem could be stress. Such hives are referred to as stress hives.

How do you know if hives are stress-related?

In order to determine whether your hives or rash are caused by stress or something else, try to recall any new products you may have tried in the past 7 days:

  • Is it a new food, such as one that contains peanuts or soy?
  • Is it a new laundry detergent?
  • Is it a new perfume you are using for the first time?
  • Did you get a new pet?

If the answer to these questions is “no” and you have been under a lot of stress recently, it could be that your hives are caused by stress. High stress levels cause the release of cortisol, which is a hormone that can result in inflammatory responses and histamine release in the body if levels stay elevated for a long period of time. 

When you scratch your hives, more histamines are released, which just creates more hives. This can lead to a vicious, frustrating cycle.

How are stress hives treated?

Most stress hives should resolve on their own within 24 hours with over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines. These include:

  • Fexofenadine
  • Loratadine
  • Cetirizine
  • Diphenhydramine

To relieve itching, you can try home remedies such as:

  • Applying a cold compress for about 10-5 minutes 4-5 times a day 
  • Using topical steroids such as hydrocortisone
  • Avoiding exposure to potential triggers

If the hives persist even after 24 hours have passed, consult a dermatologist.

How to manage stress

If you have been diagnosed with stress hives, you can try various stress management techniques such as:

  • Deep breathing exercises 
  • Meditation
  • Taking breaks or going for a walk
  • Calling your family or friends to vent about your feelings
  • Engaging in a hobby you enjoy
  • Eating a balanced diet rich in healthy fats, such as walnuts, avocados, and fatty fish
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day

SLIDESHOW

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Medically Reviewed on 3/7/2022

References

Image Source: iStock Images

Marks H. Effects of Stress on Your Skin. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/the-effects-of-stress-on-your-skin

American Academy of Dermatology. Hives: Self-care. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/hives-self-care

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