< Return to blog

What Does a Stress Rash Look Like?

WTHN Team/15.09.20

What Does a Stress Rash Look Like?

Ok, let’s be honest – it’s not that hard to identify multiple sources of stress these days. So let’s talk about it! We’ve all experienced stress, as it’s a super common thing, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon with how 2020 has been going.

If anything, stress can be a normal part of our everyday lives. But when it gets to be too much, your body will most definitely let you know. 

Take a stress rash, for example. Have you ever had one? This is one clear indication that your body isn’t doing too hot with stress, and it’s crying out for some de-stressing! 

Together, we’ll take a closer look at what a stress rash is, how it can be prevented (and healed) and when it’s best to partner with a medical professional for this skin condition. Your health and safety are of the utmost importance to us, so don’t stress! We’ve got you.

Let’s dive into it.

What is a Stress Rash?

First, let’s explore a clear definition for a stress rash, especially since a rash can be easily confused with something else.

Although stress can trigger emotional reactions, it can also have some physical manifestations. That’s where a stress rash comes in. 

A stress rash occurs when a rash rises to the skin’s surface as a reaction to large amounts of stress. When your body becomes worn down or can’t handle the high levels of stress you’re experiencing, a stress rash will develop in the form of a physical reaction.

Other ways your body can react to high levels of stress are altered blood pressure, feelings of fatigue and headaches.

What Does a Stress Rash Look Like?

Stress rashes are often characterized by raised red bumps also called hives. These can be located anywhere on the body. While hives are usually caused by an allergy or environmental factor, sometimes the cause of hives comes from the effects of stress--thus, another common name for a stress rash is stress hives, too. 

The following are the most common areas where they can appear:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Arms

These rashes or hives can range in exact appearance. While they could be tiny dots, they can also be large welts and form in large groups on the body. They can even be itchy or cause a tingling sensation after showing up.

Possible Causes of Stress Rashes

When the cause of your body reacting in a certain way is a mystery, it can be pretty unnerving to try to figure it out. If your body is reacting to feelings of heavy stress, there are so many different ways it can release these tense feelings.

Below are the two of the most common reasons why your body may be reacting in this way. Keep in mind that the reasoning for a rash can also be because your body can’t handle the heaviness projected onto it, hence the reaction.


If your body isn’t agreeing with a food that was digested, or you’ve been in contact with something in your environment that your body doesn’t agree with, your body may not be able to handle it and some form of an allergic reaction appears. This is why over-the-counter antihistamine medications like Zyrtec, Claritin and Benadryl are a quick go-to whenever an allergic rash appears. Allergens trigger a histamine release from our immune system, leading to breakouts of itchy skin in an attempt to fight off the allergen.

The following are the most common causes that can contribute to an allergic reaction, including the appearance of a stress rash:

  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Seafood

Has your body ever reacted negatively to any of the above? Then you know exactly what we’re talking about. Make sure to partner with a doctor to explore these reactions. Your health and safety are always a top priority and shouldn’t be compromised.


Environmental Triggers 

If you’ve spent a long day outdoors, then an environmental trigger can be a factor if you see a rash brewing on your skin’s surface. Anything that you’ve been exposed to can certainly cause a reaction. The following can be rash-activating triggers:

  • Hot or cold temperatures
  • Sunlight
  • Water
  • Exercise

What Treatments are Available for Stress Rashes?

Now that we know the potential causes, what do we do when a stress rash surfaces? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to treat this kind of skin problem.

Here are some of remedies you can apply:

  • Avoid scratching the rash as symptoms could worsen
  • Apply a cool compress or ice pack to reduce swelling and calm the rash
  • Use over-the-counter allergy medications such as Benadryl or Zyrtec (make sure to read the dosage information on the bottle!)

You should closely monitor the spread and symptoms of your rash. If other symptoms are involved, then this could be a more extreme case where you’re having a severe allergic reaction of some kind. This could mean your throat or your lips start swelling up. If this occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

If your symptoms seem to worsen rather than begin to fade, definitely consult with your doctor or dermatologist for a proper diagnosis. There could be another underlying factor causing your condition that should be checked out to ensure your health and safety.

Skin rashes can also be diagnosed during a video conference visit if you’re unable to physically make it to the doctor/dermatology office.

Stress Rashes Can Be Preventable

While stress can occur in anyone’s life, stress is preventable. It’s important to take life day by day, and try not to worry so much about the future. But we also know that’s easier said than done! So we’ve put a list together to give some advice about preventing emotional stress and calming the feelings and side effects of stress when it does come - even in life’s toughest and most trying moments.

Life knows how to throw us some surprisingly good curve balls, doesn’t it? But don’t stress! Take a look at the following and see what actions will work best for you to fight off those stress hormones and prevent a dreaded stress rash. 

To lower your stress levels and raise your overall well-being, you can:

  • Schedule a fun activity
  • Seek out a friend to talk to or spend time with
  • Read a good book
  • Play an audiobook or listen to a podcast
  • Take a brisk walk
  • Explore nature
  • Write out a to-do list

Other Ways to Relieve Stress

If the above-mentioned ways of relieving stress simply aren’t enough, there are plenty of other ways to manage stress. If you’re in a rut, just change things up and find the fun!

Here are a few more ways you can actively relieve stress (and have some fun doing it!). Want to have an even better time? 

Grab a friend and do one of the following (or use it as an opportunity for much needed “you” time!):

  • Exercise
  • Take a stress management supplement
  • Use aromatherapy - light a stress relieving candle
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Write in a journal
  • Spend more time doing fun activities with friends and family
  • Let yourself laugh
  • Learn to say no
  • Avoid procrastinating 
  • Take a yoga or meditation class
  • Take incremental breaks
  • Be more intimate with your spouse
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Practice deep breathing 
  • Spend time with your pet or explore pet therapy

Everyone is unique and processes feelings of stress differently. The same goes for the ways we choose to prevent or relieve stress – simply do what works best for you!

Could My Stress Rash Be Confused with Something Else?

Absolutely! A skin rash isn’t necessarily black and white, which is why it’s always best to seek medical advice to better determine what you could be experiencing if you’re unsure. Here are a few other conditions that show similar symptoms--though we can’t stress enough, don’t just rely on this article! Go get checked out by a doctor if your symptoms are really bothering you!

Any of the following could be easily confused with a stress rash:

  • Heat rash
  • Pityriasis rosea
  • Rosacea
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Eczema

Have you ever experienced any of the above reactions? All of these can easily be misdiagnosed for something else based on the similarities. Again, we can’t make this final diagnosis, which is why it’s vital for you to make sure to consult with your physician who can best educate you on your potential condition.

Your health and safety are always a priority and should never be compromised!

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

If you suspect a rash might be caused by anything else other than stress, you should definitely seek medical attention. Rashes are a sign of your body reacting negatively to something, especially when it comes to eating food or being exposed to allergens that your body doesn’t agree with.

There are also other indicators to show you that this could be much more than a simple rash. If any of the following symptoms coincide with your rash, you may need to see a doctor:

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Blisters that leak fluid (of any kind)

The Bottomline

Have you ever experienced a stress rash?

Stress can truly activate a reaction in any person. From school to work and even family, stress can spring up so easily. And even though stress can easily enter our lives, that’s usually not how it exits. However, what we do with those heavy, uneasy feelings is up to us. We have to be proactive in order to lessen the power stress holds over us!

Luckily there are plenty of ways to get a healthy handle on feelings of stress you may be experiencing. Once you find methods that work for you, it’s so much easier to get a handle on those feelings.

It’s also super important to determine the difference between a stress rash and something else. Always make sure you’re getting a second opinion from a medical professional. 

Remember, always live life to the fullest, minimize stress and prioritize your health! 



  1. https://www.scripps.org/news_items/6955-can-stress-cause-rashes
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/skin-disorders/stress-rash#takeaway
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317631
  4. https://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/heal/stress-rash-on-skin-symptoms-causes-and-prevention
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety#15.-Deep-breathing
< Return to blog