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How to Treat Heat Rash

Heat rash is a pink or red skin rash that occurs due to excess heat. It is typically found on areas that your clothing covers. It is frequently uncomfortable and itches. Adults can get heat rash, but it is mostly found on babies.

Heat rash can affect skin folds like the armpits and elbows and other body areas. These areas also include the neck, armpits, groin, abdomen, creases of elbows, and underneath the breasts.

Heat rash treatment

Heat rash treatment is usually simple. However, you need to understand the symptoms and types of heat rash to find the best treatment. Heat rash is a generic term that applies to any skin condition caused by overheating. Prickly heat or miliaria are other names for heat rash. Although they sound similar when pronounced aloud, miliaria should not be confused with malaria, which is a severe illness contracted from mosquitos. Heat rash often goes away on its own if you follow these steps.

  1. Clean the area. Bathe in cool water and do not use harsh soaps.
  2. Dry your skin.  Let your body air dry or gently pat your skin dry with a towel.
  3. Stay cool. Since trapped sweat causes heat rashes, use an air conditioner or fan to keep your body cool.
  4. Reduce friction. Wear loose clothing so your clothes do not aggravate the rash.

Sometimes itching may be treated with home remedies. This includes over the counter calamine lotion or hydrocortisone. Some people use cooling anti-fungal powders to keep the area dry. Do not apply any creams or lotions without speaking with a medical professional first.

Medical treatment of heat rash

Your current doctor will consider factors like heat exposure and skin changes to diagnose heat rash. Medical care is needed if your rash does not go away in a few days.

If you have a fever, chills, red streaks in the area, or pus drainage, make an appointment with your current doctor. In these circumstances,  he or she may prescribe something to clear the rash. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce fever and swelling. Lotions or antibiotics are other possible treatments.

Prescription strength oral corticosteroids can help the body fight infection. Doctors sometimes prescribe topical steroids in very severe cases. Anhydrous lanolin is sometimes used to prevent duct blockage. It also stops new lesions from forming if other lesions are present.

Heat rash symptoms and causes

Symptoms include a rash with small blisters or red bumps on the affected area. It can feel itchy or prickly depending on the type. A secondary skin infection may rarely develop if the rash does not clear.

Causes of heat rash

Sweat glands in the skin get blocked. Therefore, sweat does not get to the skin’s surface to evaporate. This produces inflammation to the skin that looks like a rash.

Friction is another cause. When skin surfaces rub together, it can create too much heat, leading to the rash. In these cases, the rash is typically found on inner thighs or inside the arms.

Other contributions to heat rash include

  • High body temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Being in warm, humid weather or environments

Types of heat rash

Heat rash cases range in severity, so each instance may look slightly different. Heat rash develops from trapped perspiration. Bumps from the rash can range from superficial to deep. Often this depends on the type of rash and how long it has been there. There are three different types of heat rash: crystalline, rubra, and profundal.

Miliaria crystalline

This is the mildest and most common form of heat rash. It typically presents as small white or clear bumps on your skin. These bumps contain sweat and may burst. This rash is usually not painful and does not itch.

Miliaria rubra

This type of heat rash causes more discomfort than the crystalline type. Miliaria rubra occurs deeper within the skin. Symptoms that accompany this rash are prickly or itchy sensations, red bumps, and painful inflammation of the skin. The bumps may be filled with pus as the condition progresses. If the bumps contain pus, medical professionals sometimes refer to it as miliaria pustulosa.

Miliaria profundal

This is less common than the other two forms of heat rash. Miliaria profundal may become chronic and occurs in the deepest layer of skin. It usually occurs in adults, not babies or children. It typically presents with larger, flesh-colored bumps. Dizziness and nausea may accompany this type of heat rash.

Recognizing similar conditions

Some skin conditions, such as contact dermatitis, may look like heat rash. Knowing the difference between these conditions aids in treatment. With heat rash, you are looking for fluid-filled blisters that are red in appearance.

  • Contact dermatitis is a skin rash caused by recent exposure to allergens or toxins. Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a type of contact dermatitis caused by stress, harsh detergents or soaps. This rash presents on the skin as itchy, swollen red bumps.
  • Rosacea appears on the face. It presents differently in different patients; some may have severe acne while others may have flaky skin. Fair-skinned patients have more trouble with it. Visible blood vessels, pimples, patchy redness or facial swelling may accompany this rash.
  • Christmas tree rash (Pityriasis rosea) is an itchy, scaly rash that appears on the back, limbs or abdomen. It flares out in a Christmas tree pattern.
  • Scabies is a rash with scales, blisters, or pimples that itch, especially at night. Scabies mites cause it. The tiny bugs may leave grayish white burrow tracks on the skin as well.
  • Medicine or drug rashes result from an allergy to a drug, especially an antibiotic. It presents with small red spots that spread, usually within a week of beginning a new medication. Get medical help immediately if you also have difficulty breathing with this type of rash.
  • Intertrigo is a rash with painful, oozing sores that may bleed. This rash usually occurs due to tightly fitting clothing or excess body weight.
  • Diaper rash presents with redness and irritation found on a baby’s bottom. Mild cases clear up with frequent diaper changes and rash cream but get medical attention for oozing sores or severe rashes.
  • Lichen Planus is a rash with purple flat, angular bumps that may be painful and itchy. It affects the back and extremities.
  • Psoriasis presents with rough, itchy, silvery, and scaly skin in patches that may cause pain.
  • Granuloma annulare is a skin rash with small, reddish, circular papules or bumps. It appears on hands, feet, and the backs of forearms.
  • Ringworm (tinea corporis) is a rash with red, scaly, and itchy slightly raised bumps. This fungal infection causes jock itch and athlete’s foot.
  • Shingles (herpes zoster) presents with tingling, burning, and itchy blisters caused by the chicken pox virus. In advanced cases, the blisters may burst, leaving dry, flaky, crusty ulcers.

Preventing heat rash

Heat rash is a greater risk in the summer months, but lifestyle changes can help. Follow these tips to avoid getting heat rash or aggravating the condition.

  • Do not dress too warmly in hot weather or other hot environments.
  • Keep skin dry and cool.
  • Do not use products on your skin that are oil-based. These products may clog the sweat glands.
  • Do not use powder on your body. Powders can have a warming effect on the skin.
  • Avoid activities or environments that cause excessive sweating.
  • Keep air circulating well in your home.
  • Wear loose cotton clothing or clothing that has moisture wicking properties.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep cool and hydrated.
  • If you must be in a hot environment, allow time for your body to acclimate to the new temperature.

Adjusting to hot environments

On average, it takes 5-7 days to adapt to hot climates. This does not mean that you cannot be active. Just give yourself time to build your activity level up to adjust to the temperature.

While your body is adjusting, you can follow these tips to aid in acclimation.

  • Try to keep meals light. Hot, heavy meals in hot weather can directly raise your body temperature.
  • Drinks that replace electrolytes can help replenish moisture lost through sweat. Otherwise, drink about 5-7 ounces of water throughout the day at 15-20-minute increments.
  • Do not drink alcohol because alcohol can dehydrate your body.

As your body acclimates, you will notice that with each day of exposure, your body temperature will gradually begin to normalize. Also, the amount of sweat you produce will increase. This is a regular part of acclimation.

If you do get a skin rash, you can use several methods to find relief. Rashes on the skin often differ in appearance and symptoms. With proper treatment, heat rashes will usually go away. Consult a medical professional for prolonged or severe rashes.

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