Ask the experts
Before my wedding, before job interviews, and anytime I have a bit of stress, my arms, wrists, and hands break out in an itchy rash. Can stress cause a rash? How do I prevent this from occurring, and how do I treat it?
Stress is one of the known triggers of hives, an outbreak of raised, red spots (or welts) on the skin that often itch. Hives are usually indicative of an allergic reaction, but they can also occur as a result of sun or cold exposure, infections, excessive perspiration, and emotional stress. It is not known exactly why stress may precipitate an outbreak of hives, but it is likely related to the known effects of stress on the immune system. The medical term for hives is urticaria.
Developing an effective stress management plan may be able to help reduce the outbreaks if your rash is indeed related to stress. Your doctor can also order tests for allergies that may be causing the outbreaks. There are a number of ways to ease the symptoms of hives, including taking over-the-counter antihistamines to reduce itching, cool compresses or baths, wearing nonirritating, loose-fitting clothes, and avoiding excessive sweating, direct sunlight, and hot baths. If hives are severe, your doctor may recommend taking prescription antihistamines or other medications to help control the outbreak.
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD
American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care
U.S. National Library of Medicine