Does Stress Cause a Rash?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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?

Doctor's response

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.

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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

"Stress"
Medline Plus
U.S. National Library of Medicine

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Last Editorial Review: 7/6/2017

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