Heat rash, also called miliaria, is a common summertime woe for those young and old. It’s July now and a ripe time in the US for this issue. Anyone out enjoying the weather in a humid area will experience dampness on their skin and clothing caused by the inability of sweat to properly dry when there is too much moisture in the air. What actually happens in the body is an entrapment of sweat under the upper layers of skin. The sweat glands become blocked and blister-like pustules filled with this unpassed sweat are trapped.
Their formation can be caused by a variety of things. Skin that is heavily creased can trap moisture, as can too tight clothing. Lotions and creams that are too thick can trap sweat and block the pores as well. Babies have immature glands and the process can start on their skin when they have simply been sweaty for too long. There are a few medications known to cause heat rash, like isotretinoin, clonidine, and beta blockers.
The rash is generally itchy and can cause a prickly feeling. This is where a third name for the rash, “prickly rash,” comes from. Some people report that it can feel a little like sunburn, but its not particularly painful unless something else is occurring. When heat rash becomes painful, that’s a sign of an infection that needs to be treated by a physician. When it first starts, it looks like little white blisters barely under the surface of the skin. When the aforementioned pain begins, the blisters are larger and look more milky than sweat-like.
Heat rash can be treated naturally and with traditional western medications. In most cases the natural remedies are completely effective. Washing the affected area with cool water and soap will clear away any impurities and pull the sweat away from the skin. The cool water relieve the burning and itching for most. If symptoms persist then calamine, aloe, and vitamin A or vitamin C creams have all been shown useful. When infection sets in, or the rash is simply too uncomfortable to bear, it’s time to visit a physician. They will prescribe antibiotics for the infection, along with anesthetic creams and steroids to deal with the pain and aid in healing.
As with any medical condition, it’s always easier to prevent it than to treat it. Wearing the right clothing for the weather goes a long way in improving comfort and keeping the skin healthy. Cotton fabrics or dri-fit materials should be worn whenever possible. Staying in air conditioning or taking breaks in cold places helps to dry the skin in between activities which will help to keep it clear. Reducing skin to skin contact by wearing longer shorts and t-shirts can help to wick away rash causing moisture too.
There are a few rashes that are commonly confused with heat rash. They are similar in symptomatic presentation and appearance, so it can be easy to assume the wrong culprit. Chafing is the most commonly confused rash with heat rash. It’s caused by simple friction rather than blocked sweat glands though. Skin to skin or skin to clothing friction can causes a red spotted rash from the topical inflammation. Cool water and dry clothing will help with chafing along it may feel painful or irritating for a short time afterwards. Applying deodorant to areas that chafe can improve lubrication and decrease the appearance of the rash.
The other rash commonly confused with heat rash is a yeast called candida albicans. The yeast is present on every one’s skin but for one reason or another, it can sometimes grow out of control. Rashes are seen in the genital areas of both men and women, in and around the mouth, and on the skin. It causes itching and burning and looks just like a regular heat rash when it is on the skin. It is usually white when in the mouth and genitals. Yeasts infections usually need treatments with anti-fungals that are purchased over the counter. More aggressive infections are treated with prescription medications.
Yeast rash, heat rash and chafing are similar in appearance and can be tied to summer time heat and sweating. Staying clean and dry can help to prevent all three and make the summer fun far more enjoyable. Paying attention to rashes can let you know when it’s time for a cool shower or a trip to the doctor.