When stress causes hives

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When stress causes hives

Stress can take a toll on your body.  The emotional roller coaster of being stressed-out may sometimes trigger hair loss, eye twitching, constipation and even the out-of-nowhere appearance of hives. Discovering you have an itchy, lumpy rash known as hives is never a good sign.  Medically, urticaria is the proper name for hives which can be a sign of a mild reaction to a more serious case of breaking out across large areas of your body.  

What causes hives?

Hives can break out when there are high levels of histamine and other chemical messengers released into the skin.  The high levels of histamine cause blood vessels in the area affected to open up and start to leak. Fluids within the tissues cause swelling and itchiness and the characteristic bumpy, extremely itchy rash.  At the first sign of hives anywhere on your body, it is best to get it under control as fast as possible preventing them from becoming worse.

Whatever the cause, hives are a sign that something is irritating your skin due to a number of different factors.  These factors could include the following:

·      Certain foods or food additives

·      Medications

·      Infection

·      Insect bites

·      Underlying medical condition such as thyroid disease or hepatitis

·      Extreme heat or cold

·      Overexposure to the sun

·      Excessive sweating

·      Clothing rubbing the skin during exercise

·      Excessive scratching or vigorously rubbing the skin

·      Lotions, creams, or other skin care products

Does stress actually cause hives?

Generally, stress is not an independent risk factor for hives for most individuals. Otherwise, all of us would be breaking out in an itchy, bumpy rash. The more likely scenario is those who are already susceptible to hives are probably better candidates for breaking out in hives when under stress. Those more prone to hives when experiencing stress include women, individuals with an autoimmune disease, or for those with a tendency for allergic reactions, and individuals with asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis who can develop a form of chronic hives called cholinergic urticarial induced by emotional stress.

Another factor related to stress and the development of hives is people who pick or scratch their skin when life gets hectic. Friction or pressure on the skin is a risk factor for hives and the act of scratching the skin can cause the release of the chemical histamine, in which the body reacts by producing hives.

 A condition called dermatographia can also trigger hives for those under stress. When people with this condition scratch their skin, even lightly, raised welts that look like hives can appear. Their skin mistakenly releases histamine not because it’s been triggered by a response from the body’s immune system, but instead by external stimulus such as exercise, heat, stress, or exposure to cold.

How to treat hives triggered by stress

Obviously having stress is one thing but having to deal with both stress and hives, is doubles the agony. Life becomes even more challenging when feeling itchy, not sleeping well, being irritable and fatigued. All a person wants is for their hives to disappear.

For most people, hives can be treated at home.  However, call 911 or get emergency medical help immediately if you have any of these symptoms that accompany your hives as this could indicate a life-threatening situation:

·      Burning or itchy welts in your throat

·      Trouble breathing

·      Swelling of your lips, tongue, or throat

·      Nausea, dizziness, cold sweats, cough

For hives that are not accompanied with any other symptoms and are not spreading or getting worse, here are some effective home remedies to treat hives:

·      Practice stress management techniques – While taking away stress completely is not possible, there are ways to deal with it more effectively that could result in reducing the risk of hives. Try stress-lowering moves such as yoga, other forms of exercise and deep breathing or meditation. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, maintain a strong social network and work-life balance, adopt an attitude of gratitude, embrace spirituality, think positively, and smile. 

Other practical means of relieving hives include the following:

·      A cold compress – Apply a cool, damp cloth to the affected area to bring relief from itchiness and to reduce inflammation.  Use the cold compress as often as needed. 

·      Bath in an anti-itch solution – To soothe skin and reduce irritation, take an oatmeal and baking soda bath. Another effective home remedy is to add witch hazel to the bath water.

·      Apply aloe vera – The aloe vera plant has been use for over 1,000 years for its therapeutic properties, one of which is to soothe and reduce hives.  Just make sure to do a skin test first before applying aloe vera to the entire area affected. 

·      Avoid what is irritating the skin – If you have a good idea of what is causing your hives, stay away from it.  This would include foods, medications, pollen, pet dander, latex, perfumes, lotions, fragranced soaps, and staying out of the sun.  Wear loose, comfortable clothing so as not to rub or irritate your hives any further.  

·      Use an over-the-counter anti-itch drug – A nonprescription oral antihistamine, such as Claritin, Zyrtec Allergy, or Benadryl Allergy, may help relieve itching. 

If you have tried the above home remedies and they have offered little to no relief or if the hives are spreading or are becoming worse, see your doctor as soon as possible to get an accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment.