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Summer has finally arrived, and you have been jogging regularly in the park, working up a good sweat in your brand new nylon jogging suit. One morning, though, after a particularly rigorous run, you notice tiny red bumps all over your back and upper chest. As you peel the form-fitting suit off your body, you feel a prickly sensation creep up your skin, causing it to itch terribly. You begin to panic, wondering if you had been bitten by a poisonous insect on your way home through the park. Stop worrying, as your symptoms are common, especially during the summer when heat and humidity are at an all-time high.
What you have is heat rash, otherwise known as prickly heat. Perspiration helps to regulate your body temperature by cooling you down as it evaporates through your skin. Donning tight-fitting clothes in fabrics such as nylon and polyester traps sweat and heats up your skin, causing it to swell and plug sweat ducts. Heat rash occurs when these blocked ducts force sweat to trickle into your skin rather than out of it. This problem usually develops on clothed areas of your body, such as the abdomen, neck, upper chest, back, groin and armpits.
When you have heat rash, the first thing you must do is to cool down your body. Find an air-conditioned room where you can relax while your body cools off. Alternatively, take a cold shower or bath to minimize the prickly sensation on your skin. Meanwhile, you might want to consider trying one or more of these home remedies:
1. Ice pack. Cooling your skin is a number one priority to prevent heat rash from raging further. Pack some ice cubes into a sealed plastic bag and wrap it in a dishcloth. Apply to the affected areas for five to ten minutes at a time. Repeat every four to six hours.
2. Powdered bath. Baking soda or fine-ground oatmeal powder works wonders to ease the itch from a heat rash. Add a few tablespoons of either to your tepid bath water and stir it well so that it dissolves completely. Then, enjoy a good soak in the tub. You will feel refreshed and more comfortable as your rash heals.
3. Dusting. After a cold bath or shower, dust yourself thoroughly with baking soda, cornstarch or an absorbent powder such as unscented talcum powder. This helps absorb some of the excess moisture that causes heat rash. Reapply these powders as often as possible, rinsing and drying yourself well beforehand.
4. Lotions. There are many non-prescription lotions that relieve the itch from heat rash. Smooth mentholated or calamine lotion on your skin to cool the irritated areas. Alternatively, gently apply the gel from an aloe vera leaf, a plant well-known for its healing and soothing properties. Do this two or three times per day and remember to wash the affected areas thoroughly before reapplication. Avoid thick or oily ointments and creams, as they can worsen the condition.
5. Air-dry. If you have developed blisters due to a severe heat rash, do not bandage or cover them. Instead, expose the rash as often as you can to fresh air. This helps the skin to heal more quickly.
While these home remedies are often successful in treating heat rash, it is still important to take extra precautions to prevent a recurrence of this problem. Avoid wearing constrictive clothing and fabrics that inhibit perspiration from evaporating properly. Put on comfortable, loose-fitting, cotton clothes, especially if the weather is hot and humid. Watch your weight carefully, as those who are overweight or obese tend to sweat more and are therefore predisposed to heat rash.
Heat rash should disappear within a week. However, if your tiny red bumps develop into white pustules and your rash persists for more than two weeks, contact your doctor, as this could be an indication of a more serious skin problem such as eczema.