Stress rashes appear like hives and can occur after stressful events. If you have stress rashes, you can often treat them at home and alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.

Many people get rashes from time to time. Sometimes, you may get a stress rash if you’re stressed or feeling anxious. Stress rashes are inflamed parts of your skin that often present as hives.

If you have a stress rash flare, it can look like welts or raised red bumps on your skin. You can experience burning and tingling with stress rashes, which can be uncomfortable and unwelcome symptoms.

Stress rashes may also be confused with other skin rashes or conditions. But there are ways to treat skin rashes on your own or with the help of a medical professional.

If you have been stressed, you might develop a stress rash, especially if you have other skin conditions. Stress rashes are hives that appear as raised bumps on your skin. They may range in size from tiny dots to clusters of big welts.

In individuals with lighter skin, the rash may appear pink or red. For darker skin, you may notice that the bumps are slightly darker than your skin tone or appear more pinkish.

Stress rashes can occur anywhere on your body, but most often, they appear on your:

  • arms
  • face
  • neck
  • chest

Stress rashes can also trigger flare-ups of existing skin conditions. 2018 research suggests that conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, can be triggered by psychological stress.

Stress rashes can often be itchy and uncomfortable. Sometimes the hives can be confused with other skin conditions. Many skin conditions have similar appearances.

Other common skin rashes

Stress rashes can often look similar to other common skin rashes.

Common skin conditions that might be mistaken for stress rashes include:

  • Rosacea: A common rash that causes tiny red bumps on the face and visible blood vessels.
  • Eczema: A condition that causes dry, scratchy patches of skin that can be red.
  • Insect bites: A bite by an insect can cause bumpy and itchy skin.
  • Contact dermatitis: An itchy rash that occurs after contact with an irritating substance.
  • Stress acne: Acne that’s triggered by stress.
  • Heat rash: An itchy rash that’s caused by blocked heat ducts or sweat trapped under your skin.

Distinguishing a stress rash from other types of rash may be challenging due to their similarities. If you notice skin inflammation after a particularly stressful event, this may signal a stress rash rather than another skin condition.

Stress-induced hives have a variety of causes. Research indicates that stress causes skin problems due to the release of catecholamines, cortisol, and neuropeptides.

When these hormones are released, they can cause multiple impacts on your skin, such as:

  • increased inflammation
  • increased itchiness
  • inhibit wound healing
  • detriments to skin barrier function
  • decreased immunity

If you have stress rashes, it may be helpful to consider coping strategies and at-home treatments or seek the help of a dermatologist.

Stress rashes can often be treated at home. The most common treatment for stress rashes is antihistamines, over-the-counter medications you can use to reduce the appearance of hives and lessen the itchiness.

Some common antihistamines include:

Additionally, if you don’t want to use antihistamines, you might consider some natural remedies. 2021 research suggests that mindfulness-based coping skills may be practical for some skin conditions. Mindfulness strategies may also help prevent stress.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), you can try these natural remedies to reduce itchiness:

  • using a cold compress
  • taking an oatmeal bath
  • applying moisturizer without any additives
  • using topical agents that contain pramoxine
  • using cooling agent medications such as menthol or calamine lotion

When to seek support

If over-the-counter medication doesn’t work or natural remedies for treatment don’t seem to alleviate the pain, it may be time to seek the help of a medical professional. If your daily routine is disrupted, you can’t sleep due to the rash, or you develop a fever or scabs; these are signs to seek professional help.

A medical professional may be able to prescribe you a steroid to help treat the rash. They can also refer you to a dermatologist if necessary.

Was this helpful?

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and it can impact your skin. Anyone can develop a stress rash, particularly if you experience chronic stress or have underlying skin conditions.

You can most often treat a stress rash at home with over-the-counter medication. Stress rashes appear like pink or red hives and cause raised bumps.

If the skin inflammation doesn’t go away with medication or home treatments, seek the help of a medical professional. You may need a stronger prescription or a referral to a skin specialist. To find a provider near you, use the FindCare tool.