Have you ever touched your skin and thought that it felt hotter than normal? There are a few possible reasons that this could be occurring.
When skin feels hot to the touch, it often means that the body’s temperature is hotter than normal. This can happen due to an infection or an illness, but it can also be caused by an environmental situation that increases body temperature.
Additionally, a specific area of skin may feel hot to the touch due to an increase in blood flow near the surface. This happens when the body is trying to address something like an infection, irritant, or insect sting. In this case, hot skin may also be accompanied by redness or swelling.
It’s important to determine what’s causing your skin to feel hot so that you can receive the appropriate treatment. Below, we’ll explore the common causes of why your skin may feel hot to the touch, some potential treatments, and when you should seek help.
There are several reasons why your skin could feel hot to the touch. Many of them are related to health conditions, while others can be associated with the environment. The common causes of hot skin include:
- heat-related illness
- high environmental temperature
- exercise or physical exertion
- wearing heavy clothes
- drinking alcoholic beverages
- medications that can cause fever, such as antibiotics
- vaccines that can cause fever after administration, such as the pneumococcal vaccine or the DTaP vaccine
- sweat gland problems
Some examples of specific conditions that may cause your skin to feel hot to the touch can include, but aren’t limited to:
- viral infections, such as the flu, measles, chickenpox, and infectious mononucleosis
- bacterial infections, like cellulitis, strep throat, and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- infections that may be either bacterial or viral, including gastroenteritis, pneumonia, and meningitis
- chronic conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease
- conditions related to the environment, like sunburn and heat stroke
- skin reactions, such as contact dermatitis and reactions to bug bites or stings
- other health conditions, including cancer and alcohol withdrawal
How you treat skin that feels hot to the touch will depend on what’s causing the condition. Below, we’ll explore some treatment options for some of the common causes of hot skin.
Anyone under the age of 17 shouldn’t use aspirin. None of these drugs should be used to treat environmental heat illness.
In addition to OTC anti-inflammatories and fluids, additional medications may be needed to treat the underlying cause of a fever. These can include things like antibiotics for a bacterial infection or medications to treat underlying conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
During exercise, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking water or sports drinks. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to hydrate. If a person becomes overheated due to the environment or exercise, move them to a cool, shaded place and remove any outer layers of clothing.
Apply cool wet cloths to their skin. Placing cool compresses on the groin, neck, and armpits helps lower the body temperature. Provide cool fluids as frequently as the person can tolerate.
If they’re showing signs of heat stroke, call 911. In this case, fluids shouldn’t be given. An ice bath is recommended to help lower body temperature. If this isn’t available, follow the tips above on applying cool cloths and compresses to the skin until help arrives.
The pain from sunburn can be treated by taking a cool bath or shower. Applying aloe vera or another moisturizer to the affected area may also help. If you’re experiencing swelling and pain, an OTC anti-inflammatory can work to ease these symptoms.
If a bug has bitten you, be sure to clean the area with soap and warm water. A cold compress can help with pain or swelling. You can also use OTC anti-inflammatories or antihistamines to help relieve symptoms like pain, swelling, or itching. Be sure not to scratch.
For something like contact dermatitis, start by applying OTC antihistamines or corticosteroid creams to the affected area. If your reaction is more severe or widespread, you may need to see your doctor for a stronger medication. Try to avoid scratching the area.
There are some potential complications of having skin that’s hot to the touch. What they are depends on what’s causing your condition. Some possible complications include:
Complications from fever
One possible complication of a fever is febrile seizures. These most often occur in young children. Although they can be troubling, most times they don’t lead to any lasting effects. You should still contact your child’s doctor if your child has a febrile seizure.
Dehydration can also be a concern with fever. This is when you’re not getting enough fluids or losing more fluid than you’re taking in. Symptoms to look out for include things like intense thirst, dry mouth, and less frequent urination.
Remember that fever is often caused by infections or other underlying illnesses, some of which can be potentially serious. Not seeking timely treatment for these can lead to the worsening of your condition.
Complications from heat
Overheating from high temperatures or exercise can lead to a variety of health problems. These can include dehydration and heat-related illness. A heat illness like heat stroke can rapidly worsen, leading to organ damage and even death.
Complications for skin conditions
One of the main complications from skin conditions like contact dermatitis or insect bites is infection. This can occur if bacteria get into a break in your skin, which can happen if you scratch.
Another possible concern is a life threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency. Symptoms to look out for are swelling in the throat or face, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and hives.
Call 911 if the person:
- loses consciousness
- is confused, lethargic, or listless
- has a seizure
- is breathing rapidly or has a rapid pulse
- is nauseous or vomiting
- has a severe headache
- is experiencing chest pain or difficulty breathing
- has a stiff neck
- is in a condition that’s getting worse
- has symptoms of heatstroke
- has symptoms of anaphylaxis
Call a doctor if:
- the person is vomiting and unable to hold down fluids
- the skin forms tents when pinched and doesn’t return to normal
- an infant younger than 3 months has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- a fever is over 102°F (39°C)
- a skin condition like sunburn or dermatitis affects a large area of your body
There are many potential reasons that your skin may feel hot to the touch. These can include an elevated body temperature or an increase in blood flow near the surface of the skin. Common causes of these things can be fever, skin reactions, or environmental conditions.
It’s important to try to determine what may be making your skin feel hot. That way, you can seek out an appropriate treatment. It’s always a good rule of thumb to contact your doctor if your condition doesn’t get better or gets worse with at-home care.