How to Beat Heat Rash
Summer’s unbearable temperatures can lead to something even more uncomfortable – heat rash, also known as “prickly heat,” an itchy red rash that causes a stinging or prickly sensation. Though it’s common in infants, heat rash also can affect adults, especially during hot, humid weather. Gary L. Peterson, D.O., an osteopathic family practice physician from Millcreek Community Hospital, discusses how you can avoid heat rash.
Symptoms of Heat Rash
Heat rash, characterized by tiny bumps surrounded by a zone of red skin, typically develops in folds of skin and wherever clothing causes friction. According to Dr. Peterson, heat rash develops when your sweat ducts become blocked and perspiration is trapped under your skin. The blocked sweat then tends to seep into the nearby tissue, irritating the skin and causing rashes. Symptoms typically include:
- Red bumps
- Itchy or prickly feeling in the affected areas
- Little or no sweating in the affected areas
Who is most at risk? “Babies are prone to the condition because their sweat glands are not fully developed,” says Dr. Peterson. “Adults who are overweight, on bed rest, or live in a hot, humid climate are also particularly susceptible. Heat rash usually appears when you perspire excessively and it can occur anywhere on the body. For children, you will typically find the rash on their neck, shoulders, chest, armpits, elbow creases, or groin; while in adults, it usually occurs on clothed parts of the body, such as the back, abdomen, neck, upper chest, groin, or armpits.”
When You Should See Your Doctor
“Most cases of heat rash do not require medical care,” Dr. Peterson said. “The best way to treat it is to cool your skin and prevent sweating.”
Heat rash tends to clear quickly on its own, usually disappearing within a matter of hours or a day, once the skin is cooler. However, some severe cases may require medical attention. Dr. Peterson recommends visiting a physician if symptoms last longer than a few days, or if you observe signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, redness or warmth around the affected area
- Golden-yellow crust formation or pus draining from lesions
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, neck or groin
- A fever or chills
“Severe forms of heat rash may require topical therapies, like lotions containing calamine, colloidal oatmeal, or cortisone cream to soothe itching. Also, creams containing anhydrous lanolin may help to prevent blockage of the sweat ducts. However, if you are sensitive to wool, you should avoid this ingredient,” Dr. Peterson explained. If your rash is severe, he advises scheduling an appointment, with your primary care physician or a physician who specializes in skin disorders, so they can properly diagnose and treat the symptoms before they worsen.
Tips to Prevent Heat Rash
To help protect from heat rash, Dr. Peterson recommends:
- Dressing in loose, lightweight clothing that wicks moisture away from your skin.
- Bathing in cool water with a non-drying soap that doesn’t contain fragrances or dyes.
- Staying in the shade or in an air-conditioned building during hot and humid conditions.
- Keeping your sleeping area cool and well ventilated.
- Avoiding creams or ointments with petroleum, or with mineral oil ingredients that can block pores.
Staying Cool and Clear of Heat Rashes
“Keeping the skin cool and dry is the best way to prevent rashes,” Dr. Peterson said. “The skin needs to breathe, so it’s generally better to avoid tight-fitting clothes that cling. When sweat is able to evaporate, pores are less likely to become clogged. Your skin lasts a lifetime. Taking the time to care for it always pays off.”
Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care osteopathic physicians provide. DOs are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.
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