Is hives caused by stress?

Stress is a common factor in our daily lives, and it can manifest itself in different ways. One of the most noticeable reactions that stress causes to some people’s bodies is hives. The question remains; do hives occur due to stress? Do not fret! We are here to explore this topic extensively.

What Are Hives?

Before we dive into stress being responsible for hives, let us understand what exactly hives mean. Urticaria (hives) is an acute or chronic skin condition characterized by the sudden appearance of itchy wheals or red lumps on specific areas of your body.

Physical Appearance

Hive lesions tend to vary in size and shape but will typically be elevated with erythematous borders.

  • Most often, they appear rounded or oval-shaped.
  • They range from 0.2 inches (0.5cm) up to several inches across.
  • Apart from itching which can last within hours, they fade spontaneously leaving no trace behind.

The physical appearance might cause some concern; however, hives usually don’t pose any significant risk unless they’re accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty breathing.

Causes Of Hives

Several factors could trigger urticaria – ranging from allergies to medication reaction / infections amongst others.


Ingestion or contact with certain substances called allergens lead allergic individuals’ immune system cells releasing histamine as part of their defense system’s response against perceived threats.^1 These allergens may include:

  • Foods such as tree nuts^, shellfish, milk/eggs
  • Insect bites/stings
  • Pollen

As regards medication reactions resulting in eliciting hive(s), Antibiotics/Antifungals/Ibuprofen are known triggers^(commonly seen mostly) depending on individual life medically predisposed state at that time ^(trust me, it’s complicated).


Viral infections have not been left out as a potential cause of hives. Diseases such as common cold ^(really now?), Hepatitis B, and Epstein-Barr virus can start off the formation of hives.

Can Stress Cause Hives?

Now back to our main question which is a 50-50 situation where either answer may prove justifiable. Stress could be all that is needed for an individual to experience chronic idiopathic urticaria^“. Symptoms such as itching or redness linked with stress-induced urticarial conditions arise within minutes/hours of individuals being exposed to stressful events.

Apart from undergoing physical changes due to stress, certain behaviors like over-scratching when anxious contribute immensely in triggering the release of chemical histamine by their mast cells.^2 This scenario might pass on differently amongst individuals subjected with life’s experiences so no universal response pattern should be expected.

In principle although, we cannot categorically state that stress causes hives; rather emotional states have known triggers known to trigger or worsen an already existing hive condition. Likely scenarios that are observed include:

1) Triggers seen only after self-aware distress
2) Recurrent hive flare-ups during distinct challenging periods
3) Existence of unusual anxiety bouts resulting in regular periods experienced late at night.

Furthermore research has shown studies conducted agreed upon the vague relationship between psychological factors like stress/ psychiatric disorders present in up-to forty percent (40%) cases of chronic urticaria patients (not planning on adding “surprise!” here).

Therefore empirical data suggests evident there exists no clear-cut answer since numerous factors characterize why someone gets hives! However safe bets attribute harnessing personal lifestyle habits e.g avoidance limiting sugary intake combined adherence and good skin hygiene practices most likely prevents its development!

Bottom Line

Hives could occur due to varying circumstances, and stress is just a portion of these encounters. Unfortunately, there are no standard methods to cure urticaria or reduce the number of hives an individual may experience; however practicing healthy lifestyle habits could suffice. There is one advice we can give though- when under unbearable amounts of stress from daily/long-term activities-it might be wise for you to find time for yourself using this period to engage in muscle relaxation activities like meditation/aerobics routines which helps expand your lung capacity and improve overall physical functionality hence minimising potential triggers!

Pair all that with great companion relationships with family/friends who bring giggle-accentuated perspectives coupled with fun feel-good times – before long you will have less hive inclination thereby ushering promising life prospects!

In all cases where medical intervention feels necessary kindly seek your physician’s informed decision-making guidance.

Disclaimer: The information contained herein is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical expertise; it should not replace any medication undergoing therapeutic treatment without consulting properly qualified clinicians.


  1. Sánchez-Borges M., Capriles-Hulett A., Caballero-Fonseca F. Urticaria: pathophysiology and targeted therapy. World Allergy Organ J 2018;11(1):13.
  2. Nosbaum A, Prevel N,Kaplan DH.Cutaneous dendritic cells in health, diseases models and allergy.J.Invest Dermatol Symp Proc 2007 Jun;(1):27–32

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