Children and infections go hand in hand. Majority of the cases of childhood fevers have bacterial or viral origins and almost always include a rash of some sort. Fortunately, there are many modern medicines and vaccinations that can help us prevent these diseases which are actually becoming less of a threat in these modern times. However, if your child is suffering from rash of any kind, you must not hesitate in seeing a doctor. While majority of the rashes following high fever can be categorized as heat rashes or prickly heat, some may be more serious in nature including the Chicken Pox or varicella, Measles, Rubella, Scarlett Fever, or Impetigo etc. Majority of these require antibiotics or other prescription drugs for resolution.
The topic of this guide, however, is limited to heat rash after a high fever.
Let us see the symptoms, causes and treatment of fever related heat rashes.
Causes of heat rash following high fever
High fever induced heat rashes are non-life threatening and many children develop them following the high temperature. Usually, these rashes are non-contagious in nature and include tiny white or red blisters all over the body. Following high fever, the body starts sweating to cool itself down. However, in some cases, the sweat glands are clogged due to some reason, mainly due to bacteria or sebum. As a result, the sweat remains trapped underneath the skin. The trapped sweat then emerges in the form of small red blisters that may be painful or itchy.
Often, fever leads to chills and shivering, which causes parents to wrap the baby up tightly in blankets and sweaters. This further aggravates the heat rash due to sweat formation which has no outlet to be released. As a result, heat rashes following high fever are highly common in infants and babies.
Signs and Symptoms of fever induced heat rashes
- Heat rash after a high fever may occur anywhere on the body, especially the elbows, behind the knees, the chest, stomach, upper back and neck.
- It is characterized by blotchy red blisters containing yellow or white pus.
- The blisters are often itchy, causing great discomfort to the child. Scratching the rashes can further aggravate this skin condition.
- The rash after fever usually occurs 2-3 days following the fever.
- Heat rashes often resemble other skin infections and may be mistaken for them. Hence complete evaluation by an expert is a must.
Treating heat rashes resulting from fevers in infants
Majority of the heat rash (miliaria) cases that occur due to high fever do not need any treatment and they disappear after a few days on their own.
Parents can however take the following precautions to prevent and treat fever induced heat rashes:
- Avoid swaddling the baby in too many warm clothes.
- Let the baby cool down naturally. If it is summer, use a fan to gently soothe the baby’s heated skin.
- Bathe the baby in tepid water, as much as one can withstand.
- Let the baby go without a diaper, especially if the heat rash is present on groin, buttocks etc.
- You can use some mild talcum powder, soothing prickly heat powder or baby powder for dusting to prevent the child from sweating excessively.
- Avoid the use of heavy creams, lotions or oil based moisturizers as these tend to clog the pores which might aggravate the condition.
- In case of itchy heat rashes following high fever, one could use 1% hydrocortisone cream on the rash.
- Some topical ointments containing zinc oxide can also help heal the rash and soothe the skin.
- Make sure the baby is dressed in clean and lightweight clothes, especially in the summer months. Avoid using detergents or fabric softeners containing harsh chemicals to wash the clothing, as these can further irritate the baby’s gentle skin.
- If the rash after fever does not go away within 3-5 days, get it examined by the pediatrician immediately.
Remember: the best way for treating heat rashes after high fever in children is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Continue breastfeeding the child or make sure it gets adequate fluids as advised by your doctor.