Can you take the heat?

by Dr. Christopher H. Singh

Now that summer is well underway and we are experiencing hot daytime temperatures, the risk of developing heat rash increases significantly. For many professional truck drivers, heat rash can become an issue during the hot and humid summer months.

When I tell patients that the red itchy skin irritation they are suffering from is heat rash, many respond by saying, “I thought only babies get heat rash.”

Although heat rash is far more common in children and infants, it can affect adults as well.

Heat rash occurs when sweat glands become blocked, trapping the perspiration under the skin. Under normal circumstances, sweat evaporates from the surface of the skin. However, if it becomes trapped beneath the skin it can cause inflammation or an irritating rash.

In many cases, it is not known what actually causes the sweat glands to become blocked. However, intense physical activity that leads to excessive perspiration is one of the main risk factors.

In my clinic, I have noticed that drivers who pull flatbeds seem to develop heat rash more frequently. I assume it is because their jobs require more outdoor physical activity than drivers who pull vans.

Certain types of medication such as beta blockers and opiates may also increase sweat production, which in turn can cause heat rash. In addition, some creams and ointments can block sweat glands.

The symptoms of heat rash usually develop in folds of skin and areas where clothing tends to cause friction. Common locations include armpits, elbow creases and the groin. In mild cases of heat rash, only the surface layer of skin
is affected. Blisters and bumps that are filled with a clear fluid may form.

This type of heat rash usually clears up on its own within one to two weeks. In more severe cases, deeper layers of skin are involved. This can lead to more intense symptoms such as small red bumps that may feel itchy or prickly.

Also, one may notice the affected area does not produce sweat.

As previously stated, heat rash usually disappears on its own without medical treatment. However, it is important to seek medical attention if the rash does not go away within a few weeks or there are signs of infection.

There are no specific tests required to diagnose heat rash. Your doctor will arrive at a diagnosis based on a detailed medical history and physical examination.

The first option for treatment is to reduce the amount of sweating by staying in cool, air-conditioned environments. Secondly, wearing loose, light-fitting clothing will allow proper air circulation over the skin.

I always recommend to my patients to wear clothing made of breathable fabrics when performing any physical activity. In more severe cases, topical therapies may be prescribed in order to relieve discomfort. A common cream is calamine lotion, which soothes itching. Topical steroids are sometimes used to reduce inflammation.

Heat rash is not a significant medical problem. However, if it is left untreated for a long period of time, it can become very uncomfortable. If you ever notice the beginnings of heat rash, try to keep in mind these simple treatments and you will be well on the road to recovery.

Until next month, drive safely!

Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.

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