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Have you noticed itchy, patchy areas of skin when you feel stressed out? Then you may be experiencing a “stress rash”. While stress is usually associated with psychology and mental well-being, it can affect your physical health as well.

Stress may trigger various reactions in your body, most commonly the skin. Why does this happen and what can be done to treat a stress rash? Read on to know all about it.

What Is A Stress Rash?

A stress rash is a red, inflamed and itchy patch of skin that occurs after somebody goes through a stressful or emotionally draining event. While it does not happen to everybody, stress rashes, are not uncommon and are not usually a major cause of concern [1].

The rash looks very similar to normal rashes or may take the form of hives. While there is no specific area in the body, where it occurs, rash-affected areas tend to be red, raised and itchy. Hives may be extremely large or small in size. They usually increase in the size when they connect with each other to form a single welt.

What Causes A Stress Rash?

A stress rash is caused by emotional stress or a traumatic experience, your body is going through. Stress tends to release certain chemicals in the body like neuropeptides or neurotransmitters that may contribute to a change in how your body responds to its other functions. This causes inflammation, redness or swelling which may impact the skin.

Rashes are also linked to environmental factors that contribute to the development of hives on the skin. The presence of emotional stress may also trigger flare-ups of other skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema.

The body’s reaction to allergens, changes in weather, pollen, pet fur, certain medications, illness or food allergies, may also contribute and lead to the development of hives. A few foods that act as allergens include nuts, peanuts, cow’s milk, soy, wheat, eggs and seafood.

What Are The Effects Of Stress Rash?

Inflamed and red patches of skin are not uncommon when your body is undergoing emotional stress. It may lead to effects such as those underlined under.

1. Hives

women with symptoms of itchy urticaria

Hives are swollen, inflamed, red patches of skin that vary in size. They can occur anywhere on the skin. Symptoms include swelling, burning sensation, redness and itchiness. Hives tend to occur due to allergens that enter the body and cause a chemical reaction. Other factors include an exposure to extreme temperatures, infections or certain medication.

Stress contributes to chemical reactions in the body that may trigger the development of hives. This happens as a result of the changes that your body undergoes which triggers blood vessels to expand and eventually leak. This causes the red patches of skin that appear as rashes.

2. Worsening Existing Skin Conditions

If you have eczema or psoriasis, stress may trigger flare-ups [2] [3].

3. Infections

Scratching a stress rash, may lead to scraping of the skin. This in turn can cause bacteria to enter your skin and lead to a skin infection.

Note :

While stress rash is usually harmless, contact a doctor immediately, if your rash is causing your throat to swell up and making it difficult to breathe.

How Can You Treat A Stress Rash

Stress rashes usually go away on their own. You can choose to treat them with over the counter medication or with natural home remedies. You can even visit your dermatologist if you don’t see an improvement, even after trying home remedies.

1. Over the counter medication

A. Antihistamines

Histamines trigger your immune system responses, which may contribute to the development of a stress rash. Antihistamines are medicines that help reduce pain and inflammation associated with a stress rash [4].

You can look for Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or Fexofenadine (Allegra), over-the-counter or consult a doctor. Loratadine (Claritin), Timeton or Zyrtec may be prescribed by your doctor to reduce pain, itching and inflammation.

Note :

Benadryl may make you feel sleepy.

B. Topical Steroids

Topical steroids are creams, lotions or gels that are applied to your skin to reduce inflammation, redness and swelling associated with various skin conditions [5]. They mimic the corticosteroid hormones that are produced in the body by your adrenal glands. This helps to relieve your skin of symptoms that are also linked to a stress rash.

You may look for hydrocortisone cream to treat a stress rash. It comes in 1% concentrations OTC.

C. Regular Medication

If you are already dealing with other skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema or rosacea among others,stress may contribute to flare-ups. In such a case, continue taking the medicines that have been prescribed by your doctor to help reduce symptoms of your skin condition.

D. Treatment for Chronic Hives

Chronic hives tend to last longer than a few weeks and may refuse to go away for upto a year. In such a case, consult your doctor. Your doctor may recommend prescription-strength antihistamines, corticosteroids like prednisone (Deltasone), antibiotics like dapsone (Aczone), or injections like omalizumab (Xolair). Any other medicines that help relieve your skin of redness and other symptoms may also be recommended.

2. Natural Remedies

A few natural remedies that can provide comfort and ease your stress rash, are listed below.

A. Cool Compress

This is a great way to relieve your skin of inflammation and swelling. As cold restricts blood from circulating in the body, it helps to numb the pain. It also helps to reduce inflammation.

B. Tea Tree Oil

Essential oils like tea tree oil have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce redness and inflammation linked to a stress rash. Ensure that you dilute your essential oil with the help of a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil as pure tea tree oil may irritate your skin.

How To Use :

  • Mix a little quantity of your essential oil with a carrier oil. Few drops of your essential oil should do.
  • Apply the mixture to the affected area.
  • Leave on for 15-20 minutes.
  • Rinse off with cold water.

C. Apple-cider Vinegar

Apple-cider vinegar is effective in alleviating skin inflammation and itching. However, it has to be diluted in water before you apply it to your skin, as it is strong and may irritate your skin.

How To Use :

  • Dilute some of the apple cider vinegar in water.
  • Apply to your skin while gently rubbing it onto the affected area.
  • You may also use a cotton ball to dab-on the same.
  • Repeat again at night.

D. Coconut Oil

coconut oil with fresh nut

This is a carrier oil but can be very effective in soothing irritated skin. Coconut oil is a natural emollient and may be used to reduce symptoms associated with a stress rash [6].

How To Use :

  • Gently apply the oil to the affected area.
  • Rub-in for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Rinse off with cold water after about 1 hour.

E. Aloe Vera

slice aloe vera barbadensis millstar cactus

This wonder ingredient is used by many to address a number of skin-related concerns. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties [7]. The anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera may help reduce swelling and redness associated with hives.

How To Use :

  • Take out the gel of an aloe vera leaf.
  • Apply to the affected area.
  • Rinse off with cold water after 30 minutes.

How Long Do Stress Rashes last?

Stress rashes, in the form of hives, usually last upto 6 weeks. A single hive may last up to about a few hours but you may notice the constant development of others for upto 6 weeks. If it does not reduce after that, you can visit your dermatologist as the cause of these may be something else.

How Can You Prevent A Stress Rash?

It is always recommended that you address the underlying cause for concern to treat a stress rash. To do this, try to understand the reasons behind your stress, and find ways to address the issues. However, it is not easy to constantly avoid a stressful situation.

Following a healthy lifestyle and indulging in stress-relief activities like meditation may improve your quality of life and reduce stress. Cultivate a healthy diet and a relaxing hobby such as reading or listening to music.

However, if a stress rash does occur, you must take the necessary medication to treat the same.

Wrapping Up

Stress rashes are the result of chemical reactions in the body when it undergoes emotional distress. These are usually not serious or permanent. However, they may be annoying and may cause discomfort. Stress rashes usually show-up in the form of hives. These may be treated at home with natural ingredients or with prescription-strength medicines.

Preventing a stress rash may not be very easy due to psychological triggers. However, indulging in healthy activities like meditation and eating healthy can help.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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