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Can Stress Cause Hives?

Hives, also known as urticaria, is a skin allergy that is characterized by red itchy welts on the skin. It is caused as an allergic reaction to some kind of food or drugs. But can hives be triggered by stress? To know the answer to this question, read ahead...
Rimlee Bhuyan
Hives which is also known as urticaria in medical terminology is a form of skin allergy. A person suffering from hives has red raised welts that are extremely itchy. Symptoms of hives are hard to miss and swelling and itching might become quite severe. Hives is caused as an allergic reaction to some substance, usually food or medicine. When an allergen comes in contact with the skin, the body releases histamine into the bloodstream which causes swelling, itching and redness. Many substances, like different types of nuts, shellfish, dairy and egg products as well as some medications, pollens and insect bites can cause hives. A substance that triggers hives in one person might not have any effect on the other.
Symptoms of hives disappear within an hours or two or it might take a few weeks for the welts and the itchiness to subside. Although staying away from substances that can trigger hives is a smart way to prevent an episode, still there are some other factors that you have to take into account. Just like stress induces headaches, research has shown that acute emotional stress and anxiety can also cause hives on skin.
Hives Caused by Stress
When a person suffers from an episode of hives, the first thing that people look for is the kind of food that they have eaten or if they have started a new medication, that could trigger hives. But there is another factor that is often overlooked. This is stress or anxiety. Chronic stress as well as nervousness can trigger an attack of hives. When you are under chronic stress or anxiety, your body secretes higher levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This helps you in fighting and coping with stressful situation. That itself is not a bad thing. But what if your body is perpetually in this stressful state and it releases these hormones continuously into your blood stream, it creates hormonal imbalance in the body. These hormones combine with mast cells of the skin to produce histamines. Your body might react to the constant stress by producing more and more histamine which eventually triggers an episode of hives. Elevated levels of cortisol in the body not only trigger allergic reaction of the skin like hives, but it can also delay its recovery.
How to Treat Hives Caused by Stress
The best way to get rid of stress induced hives is to learn certain relaxation techniques that will help in reducing stress. Recognizing the patterns of stress, understanding what triggers it and having an effective stress management technique is essential for coping with hives. Yoga, meditation, deep and rhythmic breathing can help in reducing stress. Anti-histamine drugs as well as application of calamine lotion and milk of magnesia will help in reducing the swelling and itching that is typically associated with hives.
It is very difficult to gauge whether an episode of hives is induced by stress or it is due to some allergic reaction to food or medication. Hives caused by stress is nothing but the body's warning that the person should slow down and relax. The best cure for stress induced hives is to recognize the stressors that induce stress and developing coping techniques that eliminate or at least reduce stress.