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  • Writer's pictureNatural Skin By Lynne

Heat Rash vs Eczema - How To Tell The Difference?

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Heat rash is a skin condition that often develops in hot and humid environments. Although it can be annoying, it typically doesn't last too long.

Eczema on the other hand, is a long-term, chronic condiotion that needs ongoing treatment and symptom management.

Although the two conditions may have some similarities in their appearance, they're not the same.

Read on to learn more about how to tell the difference between these 2 skin conditions, how to treat them, and how you can prevent flare up's...

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What is Heat Rash & What Does it Look Like?

You can blame your sweat glands and perhaps your summer wardrobe for heat rash, which typically happens in warm, humid conditions.

To cool your body down when you are warm, sweat is produced by glands in the deeper layers of your skin. If the pores in your skin get clogged, the sweat can't be released onto the surface of your skin. In some cases, clothing that doesn't allow your skin to breathe may also play a role in trapping the sweat.

When sweat gets trapped by clogged pores or clothing, this can cause a heat rash to develop. The good news is that heat rash is usually not serious & it generally doesn't last too long.

There are 3 kinds of Heat Rash:

1 - Miliaria Crystallina

This is the mildest form and tends to show up as a wave of white or clear fluid-filled bubbles or blisters on the skin. This type of heat rash often appears on the shoulders, neck and chest areas. It is more common in babies than adults.

2 - Miliaria Rubra

More commonly referred to as "prickly heat". It develops when sweat gets trapped under your skin. This rash is uncomfortable and itchy, with red bumps that tend to appear on your shoulders, neck, chest or where your clothes rub against your skin.

3 - Miliaria Profunda

This is the most severe type of heat rash, but also the least common. It often happens after a period of prolonged exercise when you sweat more than usual. When the sweat gets trapped in your skin, you may develop a series of large, firm, reddish coloured bumps. This type of heat rash is more common in adults than children or babies.

What is Eczema & What Does it Look Like?

Unlike heat rash which usually clears up fairly quick, eczema is a long term, chronic condition that needs treatment and ongoing management.

It tends to develop in infancy or childhood, and is very common in children. In fact, it affects between 10-20% of children.

Eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis, can and does persist into adulthood for more than 16 million adults. If you first developed eczema in childhood, you may have learnt to recognise the tell tale signs of an eczema flare up by now. However, it may be harder for an adult who develops what we call adult onset atopic dermatitis.

It may also be more challenging for a parent who's not sure whether their child has eczema or just a heat rash...

How Can You Tell The Difference Between The Two?

Because heat rash and eczema can look similar to each other, it's not always easy to tell them apart. If you can't tell by looking at the rash, it is important to consider the following factors:

1 - Location - Eczema can appear anywhere, but often develops behind the knees, in the inner part of the elbows, on your hands, and on your scapl & head. Heat rash is more prevalent in the folds of your skin or areas where your clothing can rub against your skin.

2 - Timing - Have you been sweating a lot, or experienced hot, humid conditions? If so, it could be heat rash...

3 - Triggers - Certain things can trigger an eczema flare up. For example, if you've been exposed to a known trigger, like fragrance, chemical, food allergy, pollen or an emotional stressor, then you may be having an eczema flare up.

Once you know what type of skin condition you are dealing with, you can take steps to treat it appropriately.

How Do You Treat Heat Rash?

The good news is that heat rash typically goes away on it's own. You might be able to speed up the process by stopping whatever activity you're engaged in and cooling off.

Remove any heavy or sweaty clothing that may be trapping the sweat into your skin. Take a cool shower to help lower your body temperature. This can also help remove any dirt and oils from the surface of your skin that may be clogging your pores.

For a more intense case of prickly heat, you may wan tto apply a calamine lotion or a low-dose hydrocortisone cream.

How Do You Treat Eczema?

The treatment for eczema can vary depending on the type of eczema you have & how severe it is...

For a typical case of atopic dermatitis, you may start by gently exfoliating the skin on the affected area (only do this once), and then apply a moisturiser to several times per day. The exfoliation will remove the dry, dead skin and allow the mosituriser to hydrate and nourish the new skin which is repairing underneath.

You may also benefit from a topical corticosteriod or taking an antihistamine if you are experiencing a lot of itching.

Keeping an emoillient in the fridge & applying from cold, will also help to soothe the itiching - escpecially at night.

Although Heat Rash & Eczema aren't always preventable, there are some steps you can take to lower your risk of these skin rashes.

How To Prevent Heat Rash?

The best way to prevent heat rash is to avoid sweating. This may be easier said than done, especially if you live in a hot, humid climate. After all, sweating is your body's natural way of keeping you cool in warm conditions.

However, there are some ways to reduce sweating and therefore reduce the chances of a rash developing:

1. Wear loose, lightweight clothing

2. Remove sweaty clothes as soon as you can

3. Limit the use of ointments or heavy moisturisers that can block your pores

4. Try to stay in the shade or inside an air conditioned space on hot days

5. Take cool showers or baths on a regular basis

How To Prevent Eczema?

Although you can't prevent eczema, you can reduce the likelihood that you (or your child) will experience an eczema flare up or exacerbation.

First, try to figure out what your specific triggers are, and then do your best to avoid them. Other steps you can take to try and prevent eczwma faler ups include the following:

1. Avoid scented soaps and detergents - they can irritate your skin

2. Keep your home free of allergens such as dust, pollen, mould & pet hair

3. Try to keep stress levels in check

4. Opt for lukewarm showers/baths instead of hot ones

5. Find a spot in the shade on a hot day

6. Wear sunscreen & protective clothing outdoors

The bottom line - with babies and children (even adults), it can be challenging to determine if you are dealing with a heat rash or eczema.

If you ar enot sure, a good rule of thumb is to get yourself or your child out of the heat into a cooler environment & watch how the skin reacts. If the rash starts to improve in a day or two, it's more likely to be a heat rash.

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