What is a heat rash?
A heat rash occurs when sweat ducts develop clogged and sweat cannot reach the surface of the skin. Instead, it gets trapped under the surface of the skin and causes a mild inflammation or rash. Heat rash is also called prickly heat.
The job of the skin is to protect the inside of the body from the outside world. It acts as a preventive barrier against intruders that cause infections, chemicals, or ultraviolet light that invade or damage the body. It also plays an important role in controlling body temperature. One way the body cools itself is by sweating and allowing sweat or perspiration to evaporate. Sweat is produced in the sweat glands that line the entire body (except for some small stains such as fingernails, toenails, and the ear canal).
The sweat glands are located in the dermis or deep layer of the skin and are regulated by the temperature control centers in the brain. Sweat from the gland reaches the surface of the skin through a duct.
Symptoms of heat rash
Small red itchy bumps on the skin are the symptoms of heat rash. The rash may feel stinging or burning.
Call your doctor about heat rash if:
- The rash is severe or painful or does not go away on its own in a few days
- You develop an infection in an area where you recently had a heat rash
- You have a fever or any other symptoms of illness
- The rash is bright red or streaked
- The rash starts after you’ve been taking a new antibiotic or medicine
Causes of heat rash
It occurs when pores become clogged and cannot expel sweat. This is more likely to happen in warmer months, in hot climates, and after strenuous exercise. Wearing certain clothing can trap sweat and lead to a heat rash. Using dense lotions and creams can also lead to heat rash.
Heat rash treatment
Heat rash often clears up on its own in about 24 hours. To help it a resolution, move to a cool area with less humidity, if possible, and remove clothing and other items that may increase sweating.
Other tips include:
- Wear light, loose cotton clothing
- When exercising, choose a cool place or cooler time of day
- Use showers, fans, and air conditioning to lower body temperature
- Avoid irritants that make symptoms worse, such as some synthetic fabrics
- Avoid waiting in wet clothing, such as after swimming
- Apply a cold compress, such as a damp washcloth or an ice pack wrapped in a towel, to the rash for up to 20 minutes at a time
- Use light bedding
- Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to avoid dehydration
- If the rash itches, hit or pat it instead of scratching
Some over-the-counter preparations can help soothe and resolve persistent prickly heat. They include:
- Topical preparations, such as calamine, menthol, and camphor-based creams or ointments, can help relieve itching. However, use an emollient with calamine, as it can dry out the skin.
- Steroid creams can reduce itching and inflammation in people over the age of 10.
- Antibacterial products can help control or prevent an infection.
- It’s possible to get a heat rash in colder temperatures if you wear clothing or sleep under sheets that cause overheating. Babies are more probable to develop a rash because their pores are underdeveloped.
The main thing to do is to retain your skin cool so you don’t sweat and irritate the rash
- To keep your skin fresh
- Wear loose cotton clothing
- Wear light bedding
- Take cold baths or showers
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
- To soothe an itch or rash
- Touch or pat the rash instead of scratching it
- Do not use scented shower gels or creams
- A pharmacist can help with heat rash
Talk to a pharmacist about prickly heat. They can give information and suggest the best treatment to use.
A pharmacist may recommend:
- Calamine lotion
- Antihistamine tablets
- Hydrocortisone cream, but not for children under 10 or pregnant women.
Diagnosis of heat rash
A diagnosis is made by sighted the characteristic rash in certain common skin locations, especially after heat-related contact. A doctor can usually make the diagnosis with a visual examination of the rash. However, complicated or atypical cases may essential confirmation from skin culture, skin scrapings, or biopsy. Other skin circumstances can mimic a heat rash including allergic reactions, bacterial infections, fungal infections, or eczema.
Risk factors of heat rash
Factors that make you more disposed to prickly heat include:
- Newborns are the most susceptible
- Tropical climates. People who live in the tropics are much more likely to get prickly heat than people in temperate climates
- Physical activity. Everything that makes you sweat a lot, especially if you’re not wearing clothes that allow sweat to fade, can trigger prickly heat
Complications of heat rash
It usually heals without problems, but it can lead to infection with bacteria, causing itchy, inflamed pustules.