Q: I am a 50-year-old male of Middle Eastern origin. My wife and I have been suffering from heat rashes almost every summer for several years. We both are slightly overweight, and these itchy rashes are more severe in areas of our body folds.
Prickly heat, medically known as miliaria rubra, can affect men and women of any origin. These rashes appear due to the blockage of sweat gland ducts at times of sweat over-production in response to exposure to excessive heat. Sweat glands are thermo-regulated – that is, an increase in the environmental temperature will cause an increased stimulation of the sweat glands, making them overactive and produce excessive sweat.
The keratin filaments, which are the primary structural components of the sweat gland ducts, get partially dislodged and cluttered, blocking the sweat ducts. This results in formation of inflamed, severely itchy, papular skin eruptions known as ‘prickly heat’. These eruptions can get worse in people wearing tight dresses made of thick-knitted fabrics. In overweight or obese people, the same effect can be seen in their body folds.
The most important step in the treatment is to avoid exposure to heat, and hence excessive sweating. The skin eruptions can be treated by frequent application of cold compresses on affected areas, and using zinc oxide (calamine) lotion for relief from itching.
In more severe cases, application of potent topical steroidal creams are usually beneficial. In few cases, sufferers can be seen with eruptions arising from invasion of prickly heat lesions by the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis. In these cases, topical antiseptic wash can be added to the ongoing treatment. However, in resistant cases, a short course of oral antibiotics may also become necessary.
I recommend that you both wear thin, loosely fitted cotton dresses to enhance treatment success and a faster recovery.
Dr Ikramullah Al Nasir is specialist dermatologist and medical director at Dermacare Dubai. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.