Hives and stress are a common ailment that many medical professionals suspect are the body’s physical response to mental and emotional tension. Hives are an inflamed, raised and itchy rash that often fades just as quickly as it appears. Stress, or the feeling of overwhelming emotions, is known to cause the sudden appearance of hives. Hives can appear sporadically or in response to a specific trigger. They can also develop chronically in an individual, with a person experiencing them frequently throughout his or her life.
Also called urticaria, hives can form practically anywhere on the body. There are many reasons why hives develop — such as exposure to an irritating fabric or soap or to extreme heat or cold — and stress commonly causes them to appear. Although the exact correlation between hives and stress has not been determined, it is generally accepted that stress compromises the body’s immune system and decreases its ability to fight off infection and other health threats. In response to this stress, the body releases histamine, a chemical compound that acts as an irritant and causes inflammation of the skin, such as hives.
Stress-induced hives, though harmless, can be unsightly. The appearance of hives can range from small, individual raised areas to inflamed welts that blend together to form plaques on the skin. Furthermore, hives are itchy and can seem to appear out of nowhere, with little stimulation or no clear or apparent trigger. They can last for as little as a few minutes or as long as several hours, and they can disappear and reappear for weeks at a time. Frequently appearing hives can worry or disturb an individual, cause emotional tension and thus perpetuate the cycle of hives and stress.
Hives are considered to be a nuisance to the individual more than a threat to his or her health, and they are not particularly dangerous. To treat common cases of hives and stress, an antihistamine — an anti-inflammatory agent that blocks the reaction of histamines in the body — is topically applied to the afflicted area of skin or is taken as oral medication. Nonetheless, hives can appear anywhere on the body, and it is not unusual for the rash to develop on the face, neck and throat. Hives on these areas can potentially impede breathing, and a person might require medical assistance. In such cases, a person typically will be given steroids to get rid of the hives and inflammation.