Stress Rash: What It Is, How to Treat and Prevent

Published October 26th, 2021 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera
Updated Date: Jun 22nd, 2022

What is a Stress Rash? | Causes of a Stress Rash | Symptoms | Treatment | Pre-existing Conditions | Prevention

You have stress. You have a skin rash. What is going on? Are the effects of stress making your skin worse?

Well, let's find out. In this article, we will explore stress rashes and what causes them.

We will also talk about the different treatment options you have for stress rashes.

Lastly, we will look at ways to prevent stress from worsening your skin condition in the future.

What is a stress rash?

A stress rash is a form of dermatitis or common skin irritation that is caused by stress.

Stress can weaken your immune system, which means you're more likely to get a rash from an allergen or irritant than someone who isn't as stressed.

Stress rashes look like tiny red bumps and can be itchy. People with sensitive skin are more likely to develop a stress rash than others.

However, anyone can develop a stress rash and stress can weaken your immune system.

stress rash

What causes stress rashes?

Stress rashes are caused by stress and stress can be caused by anything that is upsetting or causes worry and anxiety.

Stress rash is also known as a contact dermatitis because the skin becomes red and irritated. Common causes of stress rash include:

  • Allergens such as pet dander, dust mites, mold spores, poison ivy, etc.
  • An environmental trigger such as sunlight, spending time in the water, extreme temperatures, and sweating
  • Chemicals usually from soaps, lotions, or laundry detergents that you come into contact with on a daily basis like those in your laundry products or household cleaning supplies
  • Food allergens like those in peanut butter, nuts, eggs, and dairy
  • Stress itself can also be an irritant to some people
  • Medicines as people can develop allergies to them such as with penicillin

These are some of the common causes, but not all of them.

If you do not know what is causing your stress rash and it is persistent, we recommend that you get medical attention from your healthcare provider or dermatologist to determine the correct treatment for you.

What are the symptoms of stress rashes?

The most common symptom is a rash. A stress rash may look like tiny red bumps and are a form of hives that can be itchy, dry, and flaky.

The stress rash usually appears on your neck, upper chest area and back, armpits, face, scalp, behind ears, elbows, and knees.

Hives, which can be called wheals or welts, are simply red or pink bumps that are raised above the skin's surface.

It can cause itchy skin and be painful, but stress hives usually go away without treatment. Hives occur when the immune system overreacts to what it sees as a threat.

It causes the histamine release, which are chemicals that can cause inflammation and result in an itchy rash.

When stress hives first appear, the skin is usually pale and then turns red as it becomes irritated.

How do you treat a stress rash?

The hives caused by a stress rash will normally go away on their own with the help of removing as much of the hive causing stress as possible.

If the stress rash doesn't go away on its own, there are other ways you can treat it. The way you treat a stress rash is based on the physical symptoms you have.

These treatments can include stress management, medications for hives, allergy shots, and steroids to reduce inflammation.

You can also use an anti-itch cream to treat stress rashes the same way you would for other types of rashes.

There are over-the-counter antihistamines that can also help with stress rash.

These include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine, which are available in pill form but also come as a gel that you can apply to your skin.

Other stress rash OTC medicines you can take include cetirizine, also called Zyrtec, fexofenadine, commonly found in Allegra, and loratadine, which can be found in Claritin.

These stress rash medications work by blocking the release of histamine, which is a chemical made in the body during an allergic reaction and stress reaction.

These stress rashes medications can cause drowsiness, so you should not drive or use machinery while taking them.

There are many stress management techniques that you can use to help with stress rashes.

A few of these stress-relieving activities include meditation, yoga, and aerobic exercise.

Stress Rash

Do preexisting skin conditions make a stress rash worse?

Other skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis can make stress rashes worse so if stress is making these skin issues worse you should discuss stress reduction therapies with your doctor.

If you have a medical condition, that can make stress rashes worse too, including but not limited to:

  • Atopic dermatitis, which is also called eczema
  • Psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis also called dandruff
  • Lichen planus, which is a condition that causes purple hives
  • Rosacea is a common skin condition that can also make your stress rash worse by inflaming your facial skin

If you suffer from another chronic skin condition please talk to your dermatologist if you develop a stress rash to determine the best treatment plan for you.

Can you prevent a stress rash?

The best way to prevent a stress rash is to reduce stress. Stress rashes can be unsightly and embarrassing, so stress reduction is a good first step.

You can do this in many different ways such as getting enough sleep every night, avoiding stressors that you can't control, and using stress management techniques regularly.

You can also talk to your stress management specialist about stress reduction therapies such as meditation and yoga.

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. By exercising regularly you reduce stress by releasing stress-reducing hormones in your brain.

Exercise also helps to reduce stress by distracting you from stressors that you may not be able to control. Exercise also burns stress hormones that may be causing a stress rash.

Clothing can affect your stress levels and stress rashes, so it is important to pay attention to your stress levels when you are choosing clothing.

For example, tight-fitting clothes may increase stress hormones and lead to a stress rash. Choose soft, breathable fabrics that are not too tight-fitting to help prevent stress rashes.


A stress rash is a rash that is caused by stressful conditions in your life.

The rash manifests itself as little red bumps, called hives, which are itchy blemishes that appear on your skin and can be anywhere on your body. If you have a stress rash, it will usually go away on its own.

Should the rash persist, there are anti-itch creams, antihistamine creams, and tablets or pills available at your local pharmacy.

Please see your doctor if these over-the-counter medications do not heal your stress rash. A doctor may use other methods, including allergy shots.

If you have other skin conditions like acne, eczema, or rosacea, they can also exacerbate your symptoms from a stress rash.

The easiest way to prevent a stress rash is to remove stressors from your life to avoid chronic stress and practice stress reduction therapies like regular exercise, yoga, or meditation.

Should any further questions about stress rashes, please see your healthcare provider.

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