Can a Little Kid Get a Rash From Stress?

Hispanic boy scratching head in front of blackboard
Child stressed in front of black board. (Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images)

A rash is a change in the color or texture of the skin. When the rash involves raised red spots or welts, often around the neck and face, the condition is called hives. Hives can be triggered by stress in children or adults. This condition is quite common and usually harmless. More than 20 percent of people get hives at least once in their lives, according to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP. It is usually a temporary reaction to stress or some other substance, although in rare cases hives can be a sign of a serious allergic reaction.

Hives

The medical term for hives is uticaria. Hives can be triggered by stress, allergic reactions, sun or cold exposure, infections or excessive perspiration. The reason stress can cause hives is unknown, but it is likely related to the effect stress has on the immune system. When the body is exposed to something that triggers hives, mast cells release a chemical called histamines. The release of histamines causes blood plasma to leak from the small vessels in the skin and form blotches, according to CHOP.

Causes

It is often impossible to ascertain why hives are forming. This is especially true in chronic uticaria, when hives occur repeatedly without an obvious cause, according to CHOP. This condition is mainly a nuisance and disappears on its own, although in some cases it takes months to years. In hives that last less than six weeks, or acute urticaria, the cause can often be found. Foods, medications, viruses, pets or dust in the home are some possible causes.

Management

A stress management plan may be helpful in dealing with the outbreak of stress-related hives. Breathing exercises, getting enough sleep, regular exercise, not having a packed schedule, developing problem-solving skills and having an optimistic attitude can help children deal with stress in their lives, advises the website KidsHealth. Often, stress-related hives disappear quickly when the stressful situation passes. If not, over-the-counter antihistamines can reduce itching. Cool compresses can bring down the swelling. If the itch is severe, CHOP advises applying calamine lotions or milk of magnesia to the affected area. These solutions contain zinc, which provides instant relief to itchiness. Benedryl or another over-the-counter antihistamine medication can also be given to treat hives in children. In cases of severe hives, prescription antihistamines can be obtained from a doctor.

Stress and Rashes

Sometimes stress is not the cause of a rash, but it can exacerbate it. A simple rash, also known as dermatitis, is often caused by contact with substances such as chemicals, detergents, dyes or poison ivy. Seborrheic dermatitis is patchy redness and scaliness around the eyebrows, eyelashes, mouth, nose and trunk. Stress is one factor that can aggravate these conditions, according to MedlinePlus, an online resource of the National Institutes of Health.

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