Can Stress Cause Hives?

Do you have a nasty case of hives? Has the rash on your skin been sticking around for days, despite your efforts to get rid of it? Stress could be causing your hives - and if this is the cause, then understanding what might be stressing you out can help make the condition more bearable. Let's understand how stress levels can lead to hives, why some people may be more prone to developing them than others, and tips for managing both your stress level and chronic hive outbreaks. Let's dive deeper.

What are Hives?

Hives, or urticaria, refers to a group of red and white itchy welts that may appear on the skin. They vary in size from small bumps to large patches and present differently from individual to individual; some people develop just a few hives, while others will have an entire patch of them. The welts typically form for a few minutes before fading away within 24 hours. Typically resulting from an allergic reaction to food, medication, animal dander, etc., or a response to environmental stressors such as extreme temperatures, hives can be problematic and uncomfortable. Fortunately, doctors can identify the cause of hives and recommend medications or other treatments based on the severity of the condition. 

But what triggers them to appear? 

The release of histamine in the skin causes hives (or urticaria). These chemicals cause the blood vessels in the skin to leak fluid and inflame. As a result, you experience swelling and itching of hives. However, stress is not the only factor here. They can be triggered by several things, including allergies, infections, stress, and certain medications.

Can stress cause hives?

Yes, it can. Though hives can surface on your body to many different things, stress is one of the most common triggers. Stress can cause hives in two ways: first, by causing the body to release histamine, and second, by weakening the immune system. Let's dive a little deeper. 

Stress as a trigger for hives

When our bodies are stressed, they release a hormone called cortisol. It is known as the "stress hormone," as it helps our bodies deal with stressful situations. Cortisol is essential for survival, but too much of it can lead to problems like hives. So, what happens with a high level of cortisol?

High levels of cortisol can impair your immune system, making your body more susceptible to allergens. That said, if you're not normally allergic to something, stress can make your body react as if you are. When your body reacts to an allergen, one of the symptoms can be hives.

Thus, it might not be just in your head if you notice that your hives seem worse when you're under stress. Stress really can be a trigger for hives!

How do you tell if hives are from stress or allergy?

You can certainly know if hives are from stress or allergy. If the hives appear while you have other symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing, they are likely due to an allergy. But if they are allergic reactions, they could be triggered by certain foods, medications, pet dander, pollen, or latex. If the hives last longer than six weeks and do not seem to be linked to any particular trigger, they may be chronic idiopathic hives and could be caused by stress. Stress can cause various physical symptoms, including hives, headaches, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping. If you think your hives may be stress-related, consult a doctor to manage your stress levels.

How to manage stress to prevent hives?

Acknowledging the possibility of developing hives due to stress, anxiety, or external triggers is an important part of preventive health care. Taking steps to reduce stress can help mitigate your symptoms, along with seeking appropriate medical advice from your healthcare provider.

But if you want to prevent hives, consider following the tips below.

  • Get enough sleep − Lack of sleep can produce higher stress hormones, such as cortisol, making it harder for you to cope with stress factors. Thus, you often feel anxiety and irritability. On the other hand, quality sleep can help you regulate your production and improve your ability to handle stress easily. According to Mayoclinic, an adult should get a minimum sleep of 8 hours. Moreover, good sleep aids your physical and mental well-being, making it easier to manage stress more effectively.

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  • Exercise − when you exercise, your body releases endorphins- a certain chemical in the brain. They act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Thus, exercise can also reduce tension in muscles and improve sleep, both of which can contribute to a reduction in stress. Moreover, when you exercise, it can also serve as a distraction from stressors and provide a sense of accomplishment and control.

  • Eat healthily − A nutrient-rich diet can provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs to function properly- says WebMD. This can help improve overall physical and mental well-being, making it easier to handle stressors when they arise. Take certain foods like Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish, nuts, and seeds or magnesium found in leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds. They are proven to have anti-stress properties.

  • Take breaks − According to Michigan State University, taking regular breaks throughout the day can also help prevent burnout, which can occur when you are under prolonged stress. Start doing meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness practice. These small things clear your mind and let you focus on the present moment, which can help you let go of stress easily.

  • See a therapist − A therapist can provide valuable insight into how to handle stress better and provide resources like relaxation techniques or strategies for problem-solving that can help reduce stress levels. It is common for therapists to help clients identify potential triggers or areas of their lives causing them the most distress, allowing people to find new solutions and approaches that are best suited for them. Through this process of talking through difficult topics or experiences with an objective professional, people can gain the tools they need to make meaningful lifestyle changes on their journey towards achieving balance in their life and managing stress. 

Should I worry about stress hives? 

If you're experiencing stress hives, also known as urticaria, you may be wondering if you should be worried. The good news is that stress hives are usually harmless and wear off automatically in a few days. However, if you're experiencing severe or persistent hives, it's important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. In the meantime, try the tips shared above to help reduce your stress and ease your symptoms. 

When to see a doctor for hives

If you have hives for more than six weeks, it's called chronic hives, and you should see a doctor. Also, if over-the-counter antihistamines aren't helping, or if your hives are accompanied by a fever, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face or throat, you should seek medical attention immediately.


Hives are uncomfortable and sometimes painful, and they can surface by several factors, including stress. While the underlying cause of hives is still unknown, understanding the relationship between stress and hives is key to treating this condition effectively. It's important to speak with your doctor if you have persistent or recurring hives to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. By taking steps to reduce your overall level of stress, as well as employing other treatments for hives, you can find some relief from this pesky rash.