Heat Rash: What? Why? and How to Get Rid of it?!

What is Heat Rash?

Heat rash occurs when the skin’s sweat glands are blocked and the sweat produced cannot get to the surface of the skin to evaporate. This causes inflammation that results in a rash. Heat rash is more severe in adults.

The skin’s job is to protect the inside of the body from the outside world. It acts as a preventive barrier against intruders that cause infection, chemicals, or ultraviolet light from invading or damaging the body. It also plays an important role in the body’s temperature control. One way that the body cools itself is by sweating, and allowing that sweat or perspiration to evaporate. Sweat is manufactured in sweat glands that line the entire body (except for a few small spots like fingernails, toenails, and the ear canal).

The rash appears as reddened skin with tiny blisters and is due to inflammation. It often occurs in skin creases or areas of tight clothing where air cannot circulate.

It usually fades when the skin is allowed to cool. Medical treatment is necessary only if the area becomes infected. It can be prevented by avoiding hot, humid conditions, wearing lose fitting clothes, and using air conditioning or fans to allow air to circulate.

Heat rash is also called prickly heat or miliaria.

Why Heat Rash occur?

It is uncertain why some people get heat rashes and others don’t.

The sweat gland ducts can become blocked if excessive sweating occurs, and that sweat is not allowed to evaporate from a specific area. Some examples of how blockage may occur include the following:

  • Creases in the skin like the neck, armpit, or groin have skin touching adjacent skin, which makes it difficult for air to circulate, and prevents sweat evaporation.
  • Tight clothing that prevents sweat evaporation.
  • Bundling up in heavy clothing or sheets. This may occur when a person tries to keep warm in wintertime or when chilled because of an illness with fever.
  • Heavy creams or lotions can clog sweat ducts.

How to Get Rid of Heat Rash?!

The diagnosis of heat rash is made by physical examination. Knowing that the rash appears during sweating or heat, appreciating the location on the body (in skin creases or where clothes fit tightly) and seeing what the rash looks like is enough to make the diagnosis. As with many rashes, the health care professional may look at the involved skin and because of previous experience, immediately make the diagnosis.

Treatment for heat rash include home remedies such as over-the-counter creams and sprays. Medical treatment for heat rash may involve antibiotics if the sweat glands become infected.

Heat rash often resolves on its own when the skin cools. If the prickly sensation persists, calamine lotion may be helpful. Some clinicians also recommend over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or sprays.

Prevention is the most important treatment for heat rash. By allowing the skin to be exposed to circulating air, the potential for sweat ducts to become blocked and the glands to become inflamed decreases.

Other strategies to prevent heat rash include:

  • Avoid exercising in hot, humid weather.
  • Wear loose clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton.
  • Use air conditioning.
  • Keep the skin clean with frequent baths or showers to prevent sweat glands from becoming clogged.
  • Reduce the amount of overlapping skin-on-skin (fat or weight loss).

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