Can Stress Cause Hives?

Everyone is affected by stress at some point in their lives, even if only for short periods of time. But ongoing stress can have a widespread impact on your physical and mental health as your body is trapped in a constant state of the fight-or-flight response. And one of the outward signs of too much stress includes hives.

At Harmony Clinics, under the expert direction of Dr. Micheal Moisant, our team specializes in the myriad effects that allergies and asthma can have on the human body. And stress has a way of exacerbating these symptoms, including hives. 

Here’s a look at how stress plays a role in the appearance of hives and what we can do about it. 

A look at stress

To better understand the association between stress and hives, let’s take a look at each of these on their own, starting with stress. At the heart of stress is a reaction by your sympathetic nervous system called the fight-or-flight response. When you’re faced with a stressful situation, your body releases hormones, namely adrenaline and noradrenaline, which lead to an elevated:

These physiological responses are critical in keeping you safe, giving you the extra resources you need to either fight the danger or flee from it.

But gone are the days when a saber-toothed tiger confronted you and you needed these responses. Instead, the tiger has been replaced by extraordinarily busy lives that place a considerable amount of pressure on us to perform.

As a result, many people struggle with ongoing stress levels, which keep your body in a heightened response state and tax your health.

So your body may fight back and try to release the stress, which can lead to aches and pains, anxiety disorders, and yes, hives, among many other side effects.

A look at hives

Now that we better understand what happens in our bodies when it’s under stress, let’s take a look at hives. Hives are mostly associated with allergies. When your body has an allergic response to an allergen, your immune system releases histamines, which can lead to hives.

Hives are small welts that develop on your skin, and they can be red, itchy, and sometimes quite uncomfortable. 

In most cases, we’re able to identify the culprit behind your hives through allergy testing and set up a plan to avoid the trigger or to build up your immunity toward it.

But what if you still develop hives, despite not being in contact with the allergen, or not having an allergy at all?

Hives and stress

The link between your immune system and stress is a complex one. When you enter a fight-or-flight response, the release of hormones can both suppress and activate your immune system, and it’s the activation that can lead to hives.

The chemical changes that stem from stress can cause your blood vessels to expand and leak, which leads to the welts and rashes that develop on your skin.

If we determine that stress is playing a role in your hives, we can take steps to mitigate the problem. To treat the immediate rash, we recommend antihistamines. For longer-term control of your stress-related hives, we work with you on tackling the problem at its source — your stress. Through relaxation techniques as well as spot control of your hives, we can gain the upper hand on your chronic stress and your chronic hives.


To learn more about the relationship between stress and hives, feel free to contact us at 940-233-1822 or use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.

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