Noticing more itchy red splotches on your neck, chest, waist, inner arms, and legs? Your skin may be stressed.
“Stress can trigger your skin to flare-up with hives or exacerbate any skin condition that you already have, such as psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, among others,” says Dr. Cedric Strong, chief of medicine at Pali Momi Medical Center and co-founder of Cloudwell Health. “These itchy, slightly raised red welts or patches can vary in size and appear anywhere on the body,”
Stress-related rashes will commonly show up in the same spot and manner—anywhere you’re exposed to your unique allergens, or where your body is particularly hot, moist, or in areas where there is pressure or irritation such as near the waistband, under a bra strap, or between the crease of your arm.
According to a study by Cleveland Clinic, women in their 30s, 40s and 50s are more likely to get stress rashes, but the problem is more common than you think. The more you’re exposed to stress, the more likely you are to experience a stress rash.
When you are stressed, your body’s cortisol levels begin to increase, activating your body’s histamine response, or a release of inflammatory chemicals. Stress rashes usually disappear on their own within 24 hours, but if your itchy red rashes are really stressing you out, over-the-counter remedies such as antihistamines like Benadryl or Zyrtec, or a cortisone cream can help decrease the inflammation that results in itching.
If you don’t see any improvement after trying over-the-counter treatments, Dr. Strong recommends taking the time to photograph your rash and see a doctor, since it could be a sign of something more serious.
Some people may require a stronger medication to control the histamine release, so they may want to try a prescription antihistamine or prescription cortisone cream,” said Dr. Strong. “Even if your non-prescription treatments aren’t working, don’t stress. Our Cloudwell Health staff can refer you to a dermatologist to prescribe treatment, even with a simple telehealth visit.”
Other simple preventative measures include wearing looser fitted clothing, especially during the summer. Hot weather, tight-fitting clothes or increased pressure around the area of your stress rash can be irritating factors that aggravate your skin to flare-up.
Ultimately the most natural way to prevent a stress rash is to reduce stress altogether by making small lifestyle changes – practice mindfulness, limit screen time and social media use, drink more water and sleep more, and take leisurely walks after dinner while enjoying a cool breeze. If you have more serious mental health issues or anxiety causing your stress rashes, seek help from a licensed psychologist or therapist. Your skin will relax and thank you.