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Heat Rash Overview
Heat rash is the generic group name for a number of skin problems that arise or worsen because of heat exposure or overheating. Although most commonly found in babies, it can still occur in all age groups. Common names for heat rash include prickly heat or miliaria. Other heat rashes include heat urticaria (hives) and sweat retention. Heat rash is prevalent in the summer months and particularly in humid climates. The condition usually is self-limited and resolves in hours to a few days without treatment. Rarely, it may be more severe requiring professional medical care.
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Heat rash looks like dots or tiny pimples. In young children, heat rash can appear on the head, neck, and shoulders. The rash areas can get irritated by clothing or scratching, and, in rare cases, a secondary skin infection may develop.
Adults usually develop heat rash in folds of skin and wherever clothing causes friction. In infants, the rash is mainly found on the neck, shoulders and chest, but it can also occur in the armpits, elbow creases and groin.
What are the symptoms of heat rash in children and adults?
The common symptoms of heat rash are red bumps on the skin, and an itchy or prickly feeling to the skin. These are due to inflammation of the superficial layers of the skin (the epidermis) and the prickly sensation is similar to the feeling of mild sunburn.
The symptoms of heat rash are the same in infants and adults; however, since an infant can’t complain about the rash sensation, he or she may be fussy.
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Heat Rash Causes
Heat rash, or prickly heat, is thought to arise from plugging of sweat ducts and hair follicles on the skin. Occluded sweat glands with trapped sweat give rise to the tiny water bumps seen in this condition. Human sweat (with its high salt content) is a very potent skin irritant and may cause skin rashes. It is important to wash off sweat with gentle soap and water.
What is the treatment for heat rash?
Most prickly heat rashes heal on their own. The following steps can help relieve symptoms.
♦ Start by removing or loosening your baby’s clothing and move him or her to a cool, shady spot.
♦ Let the skin air-dry instead of using towels.
♦ If your baby’s skin is irritable when touched, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream may be used with your doctor’s approval.
♦ Avoid ointments or other lotions because they can irritate the skin.
The following tips can help prevent future episodes of the rash:
♦ Dress your child in as few clothes as possible during hot weather.
♦ Keep the skin cool and dry.
♦ Keep the sleeping area cool.
After the rash is gone, gradually expose your child to warmer temperatures so that his or her skin can acclimate.
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