stress hives - woman holding head in anguish

Stress Hives

Hives, also known as urticaria, are a common skin condition. One type is stress hives. These hives are either red or skin-colored and the size varies from tiny spots to the size of a dinner plate. They’re itchy, slightly elevated inflamed areas of skin. Histamine and other chemicals from mast cells in response to triggers cause hives.

What is characteristic of hives is blanching; the center of a red hive turns white when pressed. Urticaria also has defined borders and they come and go. Within several hours, the hives can disappear but later on reoccur in another area of the body. Once the hives clear, the skin looks normal.

Many people get hives in response to physical triggers such as pollen, pet dander, drugs, food, and infections. However, emotional triggers can also cause hives, especially stress hives.

When the trigger is unknown, we refer to these as “idiopathic” urticaria. Chronic hives are idiopathic because doctors cannot identify the underlying problem or trigger. However, recent studies point out that those with chronic idiopathic urticaria experience significant emotional stressors prior to developing hives. This means that stress may place a role in these cases.
Stress hives are often caused by emotions such as stress and anger.

Women in their 30s and 40s who have experienced hives previously are likely to have stress hives too. In children, stress and anger associated with temper tantrums may lead to hives.

stress hives - woman with folded arms

How Stress Causes Hives

Stress is a potent trigger of histamine release. This excess histamine plays a key role in the development of itchiness and skin inflammation associated with hives. The reaction created in the body in response to stress is quite complex. Scientists understand there is a cross-talk between the skin, nervous system, and immune system. Inflammatory cells, various neuropeptides, neurokinins, and hormones play a role in this.

Stress hives typically last less than 24 hours. However, new hives can form, as a person experiences more stress.

Stress Hives vs Stress Rash

Stress is a powerful thing our bodies experience. It can cause both hives and rashes. We identify hives as raised and inflamed lesions with defined borders and are itchy. The center becomes white when you apply pressure too.

Stress rashes consist of red, swollen bumps or papules on the skin. Stress may also cause flare-ups in eczema and psoriasis. More severe systems may arise since stress makes skin conditions worse.

stress hives - woman doing yoga pose on mat

Prevention Methods

It is always better to prevent a condition than treat it, including stress hives.

Reducing stress should be your number one priority. Stress is not only responsible for hives but increases your risk of developing other conditions including depression, heart disease, and digestive problems.

There are effective ways to manage your stress. These include:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Regular exercise

Your diet may also affect your mood. Diet and excess weight can directly impact your mood. Stress can also lead to unhealthy dietary habits and lifestyle choices. Your brain needs vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to function at its best.

For this reason, you should consume vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil, nuts, seeds, lean meat, and fish. Some people experience better skin health and an improved mood when on a gluten-free diet. However, there is limited research to prove this.

Your sleep quality also has a strong influence on your stress levels. Stress causes sleep disturbances, and sleep problems aggravate sleep. Try to break this vicious cycle by going to bed and waking up at the same time. Avoid blue light before bedtime and sleep in a completely dark room.

stress hives - two white pills on pink background

Treatment Options

You can treat stress hives with over-the-counter antihistamines like Allegra. This will block the histamine pathway to form new hives and reduce itchiness. Benadryl is sedating, so you should take it before bedtime.

Cortisone creams can help reduce inflammation and itching. Cold compresses and applying milk to the hives can also improve symptoms.

If these hives persist for more than a few days you should see your doctor. Your doctor may recommend some tests and prescription drugs.

Stress hives aren’t always diagnosed correctly unless you make your doctor aware of your stress. You can take a proactive role and keep a journal, though. Write down the day and time you develop hives and identify the triggers. Stress may not be the only issue. food and environmental allergies may also be the cause.

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