DURING the hot, humid weather conditions like we experience during the summer, children are at an increased risk of developing uncomfortable and sometimes painful rashes which can make them quite miserable. Among the most common types of rashes affecting children, according to paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith, is a heat rash, which is a condition of the skin also referred to as prickly heat.
“This skin rash, scientifically named Miliaria, is caused by blockage of the sweat glands in the skin at various levels. It is quite common in babies and children and children who are highly active outdoors, but it is seen in adults as well,” Dr Griffith explained.
She pointed out that the rashes tend to cluster most commonly in locations of the upper body, especially face and neck, and other areas of the body that are creased, where sweat accumulates or the clothing tends to fit more closely such as the buttocks, crotch, stomach or chest.
“Conditions of increased body temperature and sweating are risk factors that cause heat rash including fevers, conditions involving blocked or inflamed sweat glands, infections of the skin, hot temperatures, skin diseases, exposure to UV radiation, and excessive sweating,” Dr Griffith outlined.
She notes that heat rash may manifest in various ways including:
1. Miliaria Crystallina
This is when tiny water bumps appear just below the skin that may spread then spontaneously rupture and resolve over time. This is sometimes followed by stripping of the skin at the time of rupture.
2. Miliaria Rubra
This involves blockage of the duct at a much deeper level. The bumps in this type tend to be larger than the previous group and appear with redness (rubra). Pus or yellow-coloured secretions may also be noticed. If pus is evident with other signs of inflammation (redness, swelling and irritation), a bacterial infection must be considered and as such should be brought to the attention of the child's paediatrician or your family doctor.
3. Miliaria Profunda
The level of blockage, in this case, is at the deepest level. It features the development of firm skin-coloured bumps usually evident in adults with limited sweating in the area affected.
Dr Griffith notes that while the child may seem to experience some obvious discomfort, most cases of Miliaria do not require treatment and are self-limiting. However, triggers, once identified, must be removed wherever possible. In addition, since children tend to scratch these areas which may sometimes result in irritation and inflammation, then you have to be on the lookout for a secondary skin infection.
Some treatments that you could consider to ease the discomfort associated with the condition as well as contribute to the prevention of rashes include:
1. Choosing loser clothing, preferably cotton, for the baby or children so the skin can breathe and the heat is not trapped.
2. Using calamine lotion can help to reduce irritation of the skin and reduce the possible associated discomfort.
3. If the rash is severe, your doctor may recommend that you use hydrocortisone cream.
4. Avoid the use of lotions or ointments as they can trap moisture within the skin. These can irritate the areas further causing the rash to worsen.
5. Reduce your child's exposure to the sun by planning activities when it's cooler or in shaded areas. Keep them hydrated — this will help to prevent overheating and protect the child's skin from UV rays. Also, use sunscreen all the time. Inside the home you can use blinds, fans and air conditioning to counter sun and heat.
6. Remove irritants like salt from the skin. Rinse in fresh water after swimming.
7. Treat fevers if/when present.
8. Give the child frequent cool baths.
— Penda Honeyghan