Is your skin red, blotchy, or itchy from the heat? You may have a heat rash. Heat rash, often called prickly heat because of the prickly sensation it causes, affects approximately 14% of Americans yearly. While relatively harmless, heat rash can be very uncomfortable.
We’ll explain what causes heat rash, symptoms to look out for, and how to treat heat rash for adults and children. By understanding how to identify and treat heat rash, you’ll be able to reduce the effect and get back to life.
What Is Heat Rash?
Heat rash, sometimes called prickly heat, is a harmless skin condition that creates small red spots on the skin, generally in areas where sweat collects. A rash forms when sweat becomes trapped in the skin. Your skin can become very irritated and itchy, making it uncomfortable.
Heat rash most commonly occurs during the hot summer months or in hot climates. Hence, the name. But a person can get heat rash anytime their body sweats more than usual, and it develops on the:
- Under Breasts
- Elbow Creases
- Back of Knees
Related Link: How to Repair and Restore a Damaged Skin Barrier
Types of Heat Rash
Heat rash can take a couple of forms based on how deep your sweat is trapped in the skin:
- Miliaria crystalline: Tiny clear bumps filled with fluid block your sweat pores. These bumps can break easily.
- Miliaria rubra: Small, inflamed blisters form when sweat traps deeper in the skin. These bumps cause a prickling or itchy sensation.
- Miliaria pustulosa: When miliaria rubra becomes more inflamed, the bumps can fill with pus.
- Miliaria profunda: This heat rash affects the deepest layer of the skin and can be extremely painful and itchy. These goosebump-like blisters can break easily too.
Causes of Heat Rash
Sweat glands can become blocked and cause heat rash from several factors:
- A hot, humid environment
- Rigorous physical activity
- Fabrics made from synthetic fibers
- Nonporous bandages
- Medications that reduce your ability to sweat
- Radiation therapy
- Long periods of bed rest
- Developing sweat glands in babies
Some people are more prone to heat rash based on their body’s ability to regulate temperature through sweat. But everyone can experience heat rash in sweltering, humid conditions.
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The Symptoms of Heat Rash
Symptoms of heat rash can last for up to three days from the first signs. Typical symptoms of heat rash include:
- Tiny red spots, red patches, or clear blisters
- Itchy skin
- Prickling sensation on the skin
- Pus-filled bumps
If you notice any of these heat rash signs, you’ll want to take steps to treat the rash so that symptoms don’t worsen.
Treatment for Heat Rash
Thankfully, heat rash is generally not dangerous to you or your child. But it can be very uncomfortable. If you notice signs of heat rash, you’ll want to cool your skin and body as quickly as possible. Ways to cool the skin include:
- Get out of the heated environment.
- Sit with a fan or in an air-conditioned room.
- Take a cool shower and pat the skin dry.
- Wear lighter clothing made from natural fibers like cotton.
- Exfoliate the skin where sweat glands can clog.
- Avoid activities or environments that cause you to overheat.
- Minimize your exposure to hot, humid weather.
- Applying moisturizing creams to relieve itch and inflammation
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Related Link: The Right pH Level is Everything
Heat Rash Treatment in Babies and Children
Children and babies can experience heat rash more often because their bodies have higher temperatures and their sweat glands aren’t fully developed. Their skin can often overheat during activity or even while sleeping.
Thankfully, you can treat their rash at home by:
- Cooling their skin by removing layers or damp clothing.
- Moving them to a cooler environment with air conditioning or a fan.
- Dabbing the affected area of their skin with a cool, wet cloth.
- Giving your child a cool bath for at least ten minutes.
- Applying a cream or lotion to relieve itchy skin or blisters.
- Dressing your child in breathable natural fabrics like cotton.
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When You Should See a Doctor For Heat Rash
Most of the time, the heat rash disappears after cooling the skin or avoiding the heat. But you should contact your doctor if:
- You have open blisters or lesions that show signs of infection.
- You experience heat exhaustion and are struggling to sweat.
- You have a fever
- The heat rash lasts more than three days or gets worse.
Sometimes other more serious conditions like viral or bacterial infections can be mistaken for heat rash. If you experience any of these symptoms with the heat rash, you should contact your doctor to rule out a more serious skin problem:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Prevent Heat Rash By Protecting Your Skin
While heat rash isn’t life-threatening, it can be uncomfortable. You can prevent heat rash by avoiding hot environments or activities that can cause excessive sweat. Wearing light, natural fabrics and using fortifying moisturizer creams can protect your skin from clogging and overheating. If you develop a heat rash, act quickly to cool your skin to prevent symptoms from worsening.
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Related Link: Sensitive Skin: 10 Causes with Easy Home Treatments