Healthy Living

What Is Heat Rash: Get the Facts

What Is Heat Rash: Get the Facts

Key Takeaways

  • Heat rash is also known as "prickly heat".
  • It refers to a condition of the skin that comes as a result of the blockage of sweat ducts.
  • In most cases, the condition disappears on its own within a short time.

A rash is a general term used to refer to any visible outbreak of the skin. Heat rash also known as "prickly heat" refers to a condition of the skin that comes as a result of the blockage of sweat ducts. This is a condition that happens when the sweat ducts cannot excrete the sweat. Once these pores are blocked, sweat accumulates in the skin.

Heat rash mostly affects people living in hot or humid environments. The condition is more common in children as a result of underdeveloped sweat glands. However, it does not mean that it cannot affect adults. It can affect people of all ages. It is a condition that does not require any serious medical attention since the rash resolves on its own. 

What Causes Heat Rash?

There are a number of things that might cause heat rash. The condition happens when sweat is trapped in the skin layers. Once this happens, you may experience itching as a result of inflammation of the skin tissues. The following are factors that can lead to prickly heat:

  • Certain medications - some medications can cause heat rash, especially chemotherapeutic agents.
  • Underdeveloped sweat glands - this is common in infants and children. Skin rashes may appear in small children since they are not able to effectively excrete their sweat due to poor sweat gland functioning. 
  • Overheating- happens when your skin is exposed to very high temperatures. This can be as a result of using electric blankets or staying in hot environments for a long period of time.
  • Some fabrics- there are clothes that are made of particular materials that do not allow the efficient evaporation of sweat.
  • Vigorous physical activities - may lead to the production of excessive sweat.
  • Creams- Using heavy creams or lotions may lead to a blockage of the sweat ducts.

Types of Heat Rashes

Heat rash is also referred to as "miliaria". The types of heat rashes are:

  • Miliaria rubra - it is the most common form of heat rash. It results from the blockage of the sweat glands. As a result, sweat leaks into the skin layers causing inflammation. It forms red bumps on the skin that can be itchy. Most of the affected areas are around your skin folds, under the breasts, or your arms.
  • Miliaria crystalline - it is the least severe form of heat rash. It is accompanied by a single symptom where numerous tiny blisters form on the skin.
  • Miliaria pustulosa - is mostly associated to constant scratching. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Miliaria profunda - is also referred to as “wildfire” since it is known to spread very fast. It is the most severe form of miliaria. It develops out of the blockage of sweat glands in the deeper layers of the skin. 

Symptoms of Heat Rash

Heat rash symptoms can be observed anywhere in the body where there are sweat glands. Their symptoms may be different. They may include:

  • Tiny bumps on the skin
  • Pink or red patches
  • Severe irritation in some cases
  • Burning sensation

The most commonly affected areas in the body are the armpits, chest, stomach, face, neck, and at the back. It can also be seen beneath the breasts, scrotum, and groin, where there are skin folds.

The Bottom Line

Heat rash is not a dangerous condition to worry about. In most cases, the condition disappears on its own within a short time. You can treat the condition by using antiperspirants and avoiding hot places or doing activities that can trigger excessive sweating. Heat rash symptoms should not be mistaken with those of other infections.