What is Heat Rash?
Heat rash or prickly heat is the appearance of small papules or pus-filled lesions in the skin due to excess heat. Fundamentally speaking, heat rashes develop when sweat becomes trapped within the deeper layers of the skin due to blockage in the sweat glands, leading to redness, irritation, infection, itching and even severe consequences if itched regularly, causing infection from heat rashes to spread within the skin.
People who are obese, with an abnormally high BMI (body-mass index) and those with a high body fat content, who sweat easily are more likely to get skin rashes in summer. Babies and children whose sweat glands are still in the developmental phase are also prone to developing heat rashes, and therefore need a heat rash treatment.
People get heat rashes on the neck, armpits, all over their back, under the breasts where sweat tends to accumulate more, in the chest, all around the groin. It mostly occurs due to lack of hygiene in areas such as the crooks of the elbows and knees, and the waist. In short, wherever there are chances of clothing rubbing against sweaty skin, or there is a possibility of accumulation of sweat due to skin folds, there are chances of development of heat rashes on skin in those areas.
Is heat rash due to the sun?
Heat rashes largely are dependent on the climate (humidity levels) and the physical state of a human being. Some people have extremely sensitive skin that can develop rashes whenever they step out in direct sunlight. Other sensitive populations include those who are on certain medications like specific antibiotics or undergoing some form of chemical treatment. Some develop heat rashes due to unwanted adverse effects of fragrances, dyes, or disinfectants. This phenomenon is known as photodermatitis.
Some people may develop heat rashes on neck, chest, arms and thighs when they soak up some sun in the late months of spring or early summer. This phenomenon is called polymorphous light eruption (PMLE). It is a less severe form of rashes and can dissolve on its own without medical attention.
Sunlight can also trigger a rare condition called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE – an auto-immune disorder) in susceptible people. However, you do not always need the sun to give you skin rashes in summer. Nonetheless, the sun may play a role in the developmental phase for these rashes.
What are the symptoms of heat rashes?
The appearance of small bumps or spots, known as papules are the most common heat rash symptoms. Other heat rash symptoms include - a constant sensation/ tendency to itch the areas near the spots, which may get uncontrollable beyond a point if left untreated, and mild swelling of the areas where there is a heat rash on the skin.
What Causes Heat Rash?
Heat rashes in summer predominantly occur when the sweat is trapped inside a sweat gland and does not evaporate easily. This may be caused due to excess friction between the folds of the skin or between the clothing and the skin, which does not let the perspiration evaporate easily. This may or may not be triggered by the sun alone. Here are a few more causes that lead to heat rashes.
- Immature or underdeveloped sweat glands, like those present in babies and children. These underdeveloped glands in children tend to rupture more easily, thereby trapping perspiration beneath the epidermis (outer skin layer) causing heat rashes in summer. On the other hand, in the case of neonates, especially if the baby is being warmed in an incubator, there are chances that the baby will develop heat rashes. There is also a possibility of heat rashes developing if the baby is dressed too warmly or has a fever.
- Tropical climates can lead to excess sweat and perspiration, which may or may not be triggered by the sun alone. This causes heat rash in either case.
- Long stretches of physical activity like engaging in intense exercise, running errands involving hard work or rapid cardiovascular activity, especially in the hot months of the year, can also lead to excess sweat and cause entrapment of sweat in the deeper layers of the skin. This can give you skin rashes in summer too.
- The body temperature increases if you dress in overly warm clothes, sleep for a prolonged duration under an electric blanket, or have prolonged fever. In case you have a sensitive skin, any of these conditions can lead to heat rashes on your body.
Heat rashes are scientifically known as miliaria. There are different types of miliaria depending on the degree and severity of the blockage of sweat glands. The main classifications of heat rashes are listed below:
- Miliaria crystallina: It is the mildest form of the condition. It generally affects the sweat ducts in the top layer of the skin (epidermis). This form is marked by clear, fluid-filled blisters and bumps (papules) that are often painless and break easily. They are found mainly in the face, folds of the breasts and the armpits.
- Miliaria rubra: It occurs in a layer deeper than the epidermis, and is commonly referred to as prickly heat (common form of heat rash in summer). The common signs and symptoms for heat rashes of this type include red bumps and the constant urge to itch or prick around the affected area.
- Miliaria pustulosa: It is a level higher than miliaria rubra and happens when the papules of miliaria rubra become inflamed and pustular.
- Miliaria profunda: It is the most uncommon form of this condition, affecting the dermis, a deeper layer of skin. Often, sweat retained in the sweat glands leaks out into the skin, causing firm, fresh lesions that resemble goosebumps.
How can I prevent heat rashes on body?
Do not panic if you see a few heat rashes on your body and face during the summer months. However, You can follow some basic tips to ensure that you get fewer heat rashes on skin this summer:
- Avoid working out in the open, especially in the afternoon, in places with less ventilation; the best time to workout can be early mornings or late evenings when the sun is not there.
- Be in the proximity of a fan or an air-conditioner (albeit judiciously) when engaging in high-intensity cardiovascular activities or training.
- Wearing light clothing made from natural fibres, such as cotton instead of synthetic, body-hugging clothing can help you sweat less or even cause the sweat to evaporate faster.
- Take frequent showers and wash your face with a gentle cleanser to keep sweat at bay. Apply a lightweight moisturiser and ensure the pores of the skin do not clog.
- If you have a high body mass index or are overweight, engage in following a healthy diet and include a certain amount of fitness training to reduce obesity; it not only reduces chances of your body heating up from within due to the high-fat content, it also makes you more confident and reduces sweating.
Follow these steps and you will not have to seek remedies for heat rashes anymore.
When to see a doctor for heat rash on skin?
Heat rashes on skin normally subside on their own. However, you need to pay attention if any symptom lingers for a prolonged time and starts affecting your daily life activities. Some common complications are listed below:
- Increased pain, swelling, redness or warmth around the affected area
- Increased pus formation in the papules and non-stop drainage of pus
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, in the neck region or the groin
- Infected papules or pustules leading to fever or any movement disability
If such symptoms occur, seek heat rash treatment without delay.
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Heat rashes can be irritating and may cause stress initially. However, always remember to maintain a healthy, hygienic regimen and not pay much attention to the itching or prickling sensations. The more you itch or prick them the more time they take to dissolve. Also, resort to using natural products, to ensure your skin breathes and remains healthy through the summer months. You can find a range of natural products to go for happy and healthy skin, here.
Frequently asked Questions on heat rashes in summer
What is the treatment for heat rashes?In normal circumstances, you will not need to do anything specific for heat rash treatment. They take their own time to wear away. As long as you keep yourself cool and take adequate showers, maintain personal hygiene and take plenty of fluids, you should be good to go!
What are the remedies for heat rashes in summer?The best heat rash remedy in summer is to include plenty of water-rich foods in your diet. Hydration is the key to every problem – and this is no different, especially in summer. Also, try to reduce your meat intake in summer, as meats, especially red meat tends to increase your body temperature and cause more heat. Sticking to smaller portions and leaner sources of protein in summer will also help maintain a suitable body temperature and prevent any form of overheating within the body. Avoiding body-hugging clothing is another sustainable heat rash remedy. Synthetic and tight clothing also makes you sweat more in summer and wearing loose, breathable, cotton clothing is another key that will help you stay cool during the summer months.
Why do I get heat rash in summer?You probably have sensitive skin and sweat a lot in summer, which makes more sweat stick onto your skin and clothes. If you are involved in intense exercises and wear sweaty clothes for a longer period even after your workout session is over, you are more likely to get these rashes. You may also be living in tropical parts of the country with a more humid climate, which makes you sweat more in summer. However, the treatment of heat rashes is easy and painless.