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Sweat Rash

Sweat rash is a skin condition that is characterized by an itchy rash. Here is a brief overview about this rash, which is very common in children.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Sweat rash is a skin ailment common among people living in hot and humid regions. Others may develop such skin rash during summers. This condition is otherwise known as miliaria, prickly heat rash, heat rash, or heat pimples. This type of rash appears when sweat is not drained out properly. Normally, the sweat is expelled through the skin pores. If it is retained in the skin itself, sweat rash occurs. Even though, people of all ages are prone to this condition, sweat rash or heat rash is more prominently seen in infants and kids, who have underdeveloped sweat glands.
Symptoms and Causes
Sweat rash is characterized by small, pimple-like eruptions on the skin, which are called 'papules'. These papules cause a prickling sensation; and may appear on any part of the body, the most common among them being the face, neck, skin folds, under the breasts, and under the scrotum. Some types of sweat rash may cause severe redness of the skin and fluid-filled vesicles. Normally, the sweat produced by the sweat glands, travels through the sweat gland ducts, and exit through the pores in the skin. If these ducts are blocked or inflamed, the sweat gets retained under the skin. This leads to irritation, a prickly sensation, itching, and small eruptions.
Such blockage is caused by dead skin cells or bacteria, like Staphylococcus epidermidis that is commonly found on the skin. Usually, sweat rash is found as a localized condition, and it does not affect the whole body. While kids are more prone to sweat rash, due to their underdeveloped sweat glands; excessive sweating could be a reason for such rash in adults. It is common in places with a hot and humid weather. Spending long hours in hot interiors without proper ventilation, could also cause sweat rash.
Different Types
Sweat rash is classified into various types, depending upon the level of obstruction or inflammation. The most common among them are miliaria crystallina, miliaria rubra, miliaria pustulosa, and miliaria profunda. When the obstruction or inflammation is located near the surface of the skin, it is called miliaria crystallina. This condition is characterized by small, fluid-filled vesicles on the skin. This rash may also cause itching; and look like tiny clear drops, which may rupture while scratching.
Miliaria rubra is the most common type of sweat rash; and unlike miliaria crystallina, it is characterized by small eruptions, which are not fluid-filled. In this case, the obstruction in the sweat gland duct is located deeper into the epidermis. This leads to retention of sweat in the deeper layers of the epidermis and the underlying dermis. This type of sweat rash causes tiny bumps on the skin, accompanied with slight redness, intense itching and prickling sensation.
Miliaria pustulosa is also characterized by itchy and red skin, but the main symptom is small blisters with pus. Sweat rash caused by obstruction or inflammation in the deeper layers of the skin, is termed miliaria profunda. This condition may cause red skin, but usually, eruptions are not found. In some cases, large bumps may develop, which can be painful. Unlike other types, miliaria profunda is not itchy and is uncommon, but if large areas are affected, it can cause fever.
How to Prevent Sweat Rash
You can prevent sweat rash by keeping your body cool, especially during hot, humid weather; and while doing strenuous physical activities or exercises that induce sweating. It is advisable to use air conditioners or fans to cool the atmosphere and wear light clothing. You may also resort to frequent showers. Regular scrubbing is effective for removing dead cells, which can block the sweat gland ducts. Using antiperspirants can provide some temporary relief.
Treating Sweat Rash
In most cases, treatment is not required, as the condition subsides on its own. However, severe cases need adequate treatment with antibacterial preparations and other topical agents. Avoid use of oil-based ointments and creams for sweat rash treatment, as they may worsen the blockage of sweat gland ducts. You may use topical agents with anti-itching properties. They include calamine, menthol and camphor-based preparations; which are also effective for reducing the severity of the symptoms.
However, it is always better to consult your health care provider, to diagnose and treat the condition. Medical attention is necessary for severe cases, which may last for a very long time, if left untreated.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.