Blushing is the involuntary reddening of the face, usually triggered by emotions such as embarrassment or stress.

Other areas of the body – such as the neck, ears and upper chest – can also be affected. As well as causing redness, blushing can sometimes make the affected area feel hot.

What causes blushing?

"Normal" blushing happens when a strong emotional trigger stimulates the nervous system to widen the blood vessels in the face. This increases the flow of blood into the blood vessels just underneath the skin, causing your face to turn red.

Abnormal (severe or frequent) blushing can have both psychological and physical causes, including:

Blushing can also be triggered by drinking alcohol or hot drinks, eating hot or spicy food, strenuous exercise and sudden changes in temperature.

Read more about the causes of blushing.

When to seek medical advice

Most people will blush from time to time, and it's not usually a cause for concern.

However, frequent and severe blushing can have a significant psychological impact and can lead to the person avoiding certain situations and interaction with other people.

You should consider speaking to your GP about your blushing if it occurs frequently and is affecting your quality of life.

What treatments are available?

If abnormal blushing is affecting your quality of life, you may benefit from treatment. The specific treatment offered will depend on the underlying cause of your blushing.

If it is thought that the underlying cause is psychological, such as an irrational fear (phobia) or anxiety disorder, a talking treatment called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can often be effective.

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also help relieve any associated feelings of anxiety and worry.

If the underlying cause is physical, such as the menopause or rosacea, you may be advised to avoid common triggers such as stress, alcohol and spicy foods. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also help women with menopausal hot flushes.

A surgical procedure called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) may be considered if your blushing is particularly severe and other treatments have not been effective, although this carries a risk of long-term problems such as excessive sweating. 

Read more about treatments for blushing.

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