Very hot and humid temperatures can affect our body’s cooling mechanism. Our skin is a wonderful organ which protects the insides by acting as a preventive barrier against dust, heat, UV rays etc. However, under extremely hot conditions, this mechanism can get affected in that; the sweat glands get clogged preventing the sweat from coming out to the skin’s surface. This leads to the appearance of red, itchy or painful rash on various parts of the body. Such a rash is called prickly heat, miliaria or heat rash and is of two types: severe heat rash or mild heat rash.
So, how to determine if the heat rash is mild or severe?
There are a few ways in which you can tell if a heat rash is mild or whether you need to seek medical treatment for it.
Signs of a mild heat rash
Heat rash basically arises because the sweat cannot evaporate easily, leading to clogged pores. The resultant rash of the milder variety typically has the following symptoms:
- Mild heat rash starts with redness that turns itchy.
- Mild heat rashes typically arise on the neck, back, or in the folds of the armpits or in elbow creases etc.
While heat rash is not life threatening, mild heat rash can lead to severe heat rash, which, if left untreated, could cause severe skin infections.
Severe heat rash symptoms
Mild heat rash normally resolves on its own and does not require any treatment. However, in certain cases, it quickly turns into a severe heat rash that is characterized by hives or urticaria. The symptoms of severe heat rash are:
- Inflammation or prickly sensation on the superficial parts of the skin.
- Red or angry bumps, typically on parts of the abdomen, back, chest, groin, folds of the buttocks or in the crevices of elbows etc. These bumps burst to release sweat, causing an intense itching or burning sensation.
- Severe heat rash can also lead to heat exhaustion by interfering with the body’s cooling down mechanism.
- In extreme cases, heat strokes may occur owing to the body’s inability to cool down quickly.
Infants (particularly those who are wrapped up too tight) can also develop severe heat rashes all over the body. Often they are unable to complain about the rash and tend to scratch it, leading to serious skin infections. Prompt medical attention and advice must be sought in such cases.
Treating heat rashes
- As stated before, most cases of mild heat rash are easy to treat and heal within a matter of few days.
- It is important to keep the skin cool and dry by bathing it with warm water. Dry the skin completely with soft dry and clean cloth/towel and apply anti-prickly heat powder to sweaty areas.
- If you are experiencing itchiness, apply some soothing Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream on the rash.
- Avoid places with excessive heat and humidity and, if possible, keep yourself cool using a fan or an air conditioner.
- Avoid wearing tight fitting clothes. Choose ones that are ideally made with cotton and are loose fitting.
If the mild heat rash persists for more than 4 days or turns infectious, seek prompt medical advice for it. Failure to do so might escalate it into severe heat rash having other serious complications including heat exhaustion or strokes.