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Heat Rash - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Heat rash is a mild skin condition that produces an itchy, burning sensation. It can occur at any age, but is most common in young children and in overweight people who have overlapping folds of fat. Heat rash is generally caused by obstruction of the ducts of the sweat glands, resulting from excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. The condition isn't usually painful but it can be annoyingly itchy, and some of the pimples may be tender to the touch. It can develop when the sweat ducts become blocked and swell and often leads to discomfort and itching. Heat rash is most common in babies, but may affect adults in hot, humid climates. If your baby has heat rash, you'll most likely see it in the folds of his skin and on parts of his body where his clothing fits snugly, including his chest, stomach, neck, crotch, and buttocks. If he wears hats, the rash may spread across his scalp or forehead. Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.

Sometimes a baby will get heat rash after a cough ointment is rubbed on his chest. Heat rash can usually be identified by its appearance and does not usually require medical attention. Heat rash usually goes away on its own within a few days. Heat rash in infants occurs primarily because their sweat ducts cannot transport large amounts of perspiration to the surface of the skin. The sweat remains trapped within the skin, which causes the characteristic inflammation and irritation. The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort, but avoid using ointments or creams-they keep the skin warm and moist and may make the condition worse. Babies who suffer from heat rash should be bathed and dried thoroughly. Cloth diapers are recommended because they are more likely to allow the natural evaporation process to occur than are disposable diapers.

Causes of Heat rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children. In babies, heat rash can be caused by well-meaning parents who dress their baby too warmly, but it can happen to any baby in very hot weather. Heat rash can result any time the body is unable to perspire adequately. Most often, hot weather or exertion triggers the reaction. Wearing tight clothing or overdressing, even in cold weather, may compound the problem.

Common causes and risk factors of Heat rash:

  • Overheating of the skin.
  • Wearing tight clothing or overdressing, even in cold weather.
  • Tropical areas.
  • Infants can also get it in the winter time with fever or ointments applied to the chest for coughs.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat rash

Heat rash looks like dots or tiny pimples. The rash areas can get irritated by clothing or scratching, and, rarely, a secondary skin infection may develop. An infant can have the rash from a tight-fitting diaper. The rash looks like tiny, pinhead-sized red pimples, and it can cause itching and a prickling or burning sensation. Under extreme conditions, the warm, moist areas where heat rash develops can become breeding grounds for microorganisms that cause a secondary fungus infection.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Skin itching.
  • Tiny, pinhead-sized red pimples.
  • Mild swelling on the affected area.
  • Burning sensation.
  • Clusters of red bumps present on the affected areas.

Treatment for Heat rash

The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Cool showers followed by thorough drying can also help. Once sweating stops, the rash disappears in a few hours. Avoid ointments or other lotions because they can irritate the skin. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort, but avoid using ointments or creams-they keep the skin warm and moist and may make the condition worse. The use of talcum powder is no longer recommended because it is very irritating to the lungs if accidentally inhaled.

Treatment may include:

  • Calamine lotion or prickly rash lotions can be used to soothe the affected areas, but avoid ointments or creams as they keep the skin warm and moist and may make the condition worse.
  • Frequent cool showers and a thorough drying are effrective for the treatment of heat rashes.
  • Avoid ointments or other lotions because they can irritate the skin.
  • Hydrocortisone cream is also a treatment for heat rash.
  • Cool the affected areas directly, using cold wet washcloths or a cool bath.
  • Topical corticosteroids can be tried.