Heat rashes are common not only in summers; in some people, especially very young children, they can show up even in winter months. Naturally, most people want to know how long does a heat rash last? Not only is it known to show up quickly, (as soon as the symptoms first arise), it is also painful and extremely itchy. The red blemishes look unsightly and in newborn babies they lead to extreme discomfort as well.
In this guide, we will answer how long it takes for a heat rash to show up and also how long it lasts for. We will also discuss some home remedies for preventing and treating heat rashes quickly.
Heat rash signs and symptoms
Heat rashes affect people differently and there are also different types of rashes. The most common type of heat rash is known as miliaria rubra (also called prickly heat). This arises when a person sweats excessively but his/her sweat glands are blocked due to bacteria known as staphylococcus epidermisis. This bacterium secretes a sticky substance that blocks the glands. As a result the sweat has no place to go but remain trapped beneath the skin leading to formation of red, itchy pustules and bumps. In people prone to blocked sweat glands, the main signs of heat rash show up as soon as warmer or humid weather strikes. Swaddling babies too tightly or wrapping them up in sweaters and blankets can also lead to heat rashes in winters. The main signs and symptoms are:
- Little red blisters or bumps. They look like small pimples but are not present on the face; rather they are concentrated on the neck, upper back, stomach, elbows, under the breasts, diaper region in babies, on the groin etc.
- Some people experience terrible itchiness in the areas surrounding the rash. Scratching the rash can lead to secondary skin infections owing to bacteria trapped underneath the nails. In some cases, this might require steroids or antibiotics for healing.
How fast does heat rash show up in babies?
Heat rash in babies and newborns is termed as miliaria crystallina. It is not red in color, (like the heat rash seen in adults), but is transparent and colorless. These clear blisters also break easily. How fast a heat rash shows up in children depends upon the amount of exposure the child has to heat and humidity. A child wearing too many heavy winter clothes on cold days can also experience heat rashes in winters.
How long does heat rash last?
Most cases of mild to moderate heat rashes disappear on their own in a few days time. In children, it is essential to keep the child cool as far as possible. On hot days, the child may be placed in air conditioned rooms or at least near cooling fans.
In winters, parents must avoid bundling up the child in excess of heavy clothing. It is important to prevent the child from scratching the rash to avoid skin infections. Talk to your pediatrician about the use of soothing creams to apply on the rash. For milder rashes, one need not apply anything; however, severe rashes may be treated using over the counter hydrocortisone creams containing less than or up to 1% of the active ingredient. Be careful about what you put on your baby’s gentle skin as some products promise to treat heat rashes quickly but actually end up clogging the sweat pores and worsening the rash.
Some ways of treating heat rashes quickly
As stated before, most cases of heat rashes do not last very long and disappear naturally within a matter of few days. It is important to keep the skin dry and avoid humid or sweaty environments as far as possible.
Some ways to prevent and treat heat rashes include:
- Dusting the skin with anti-prickly heat powder.
- Using a mild antimicrobial soap to reduce the number of germs blocking the sweat glands on the skin. This is one of the ways of reducing chances of developing prickly heat.
- Avoiding sticky ointments or creams as these further clog the sweat pores and also worsen the condition. Talk to your doctor about using 1% hydrocortisone steroidal cream as this helps prevent irritation and itchiness.
- Calamine lotion is known to help sooth prickly heat rashes and also help them heal faster.
- Adults and young babies can keep skin cool with cool baths. The bathtub water may be enriched with colloidal oatmeal powder as this is a gentle cooling ingredient that also provides antimicrobial benefits.
- Do not towel dry the skin or rub it roughly. This can lead to abrasion and worsen the rash. Allow the skin to air dry, followed by liberal dusting with cooling prickly heat powder.
- Children may be dressed in diapers only- a gentle fan may be used when the child is sleeping.
- Adults with miliaria must wear loose cotton clothing to prevent sweat.
As stated before, heat rash does not last too long and clears up within a week’s time. However, if the rash continues or worsens or you experience other symptoms such as fatigue or general illness, then seek medical help quickly. These could be signs of something more serious including heat exhaustion or heatstroke.