During the summer, a common skin issue is heat rash. It occurs when sweat becomes trapped under the skin, especially in areas where the skin folds over itself, like the armpits, groin, and beneath the breasts, among adults.
According to Dr. Anne Chapas, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, sweat is the body’s way of cooling itself. However, excessive sweating or sweat trapped beneath the skin can irritate.
What is a heat rash?
Skin irritation, called heat rash, prickly heat or miliaria, occurs when sweat becomes trapped under the skin . This condition can cause blisters or lumps, leading to intense itching.
Dr. Danny Del Campo, a board-certified dermatologist based in Chicago and an American Academy of Dermatology member, explains that excessive heat and humidity can result in clogged sweat glands. This can lead to skin issues.
Your body tries to produce more sweat to cool you down when you sweat excessively, but it may not be able to do so effectively. As a result, your skin becomes inflamed, leading to redness, bumps, and even blisters.
According to Dr. Anthony Rossi, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s common to develop heat rash in areas where skin rubs against other skin, especially when exercising and sweating.
During a segment on TODAY on May 31, Dr. Natalie Azar, a medical contributor for NBC News, explained that the occurrence is quite common and nothing to be overly concerned about.
Babies are more susceptible to heat rash. This condition can occur when they are wrapped too tightly, as their sweat glands are not yet fully developed and unable to evaporate moisture efficiently, unlike adults.
According to Mayo Clinic, heat rash tends to develop in adults in areas where skin folds and clothing frequently touch the skin. This can be aggravated by exercising in hot weather, as tight and non-breathable workout clothes can contribute to the rash.
What does heat rash look like?
Small, itchy red bumps and blotches and, in some cases, fluid-filled sacs characterize heat rash. These symptoms typically develop rapidly within hours of becoming hot and sweaty. The Mayo Clinic provides the following description of heat rash :
- Small bumps resemble pimples or blisters filled with fluid and can rupture.
- Skin bumps that are itchy or tingly and have a deeper appearance.
- Bumps filled with pus.
- The bumps are like goosebumps and have the potential to burst open.
To avoid infection, avoid scratching your heat rash, which can harm the skin and permit bacteria to enter.
How to relieve or get rid of heat rash fast?
- To quickly get rid of heat rash, it’s essential to keep your skin cool and prevent sweating.
- Avoid the heat. Azar suggested finding a cool, air-conditioned space to reduce your body temperature.
- After a refreshing shower, gently dry your skin with a towel or let it air dry. If you need extra relief, you can also use cool compresses.
- To prevent excessive sweating, refrain from exercising and being outdoors in hot and humid weather conditions.
- Wear loose-fitting and breathable clothing. According to Azar, wearing loose and breathable clothing can help cool and dry off your body. It’s best to avoid synthetic materials. If your baby has a heat rash in their groin or buttocks area, it may be helpful to remove their diaper.
- Take medication. Azar suggested that using a cream or taking medication by mouth can be particularly useful for relieving an itchy rash.
- To soothe your skin, use a moisturizer, an anti-inflammatory lotion like calamine lotion, or an over-the-counter steroid cream. For an extra cooling effect, keep your moisturizers in the refrigerator, as Del Campo recommends.
- Try oatmeal. According to Azar, you can create an oatmeal paste or add it to your bath for a soothing soak using ingredients readily available at home.
How to prevent heat rash?
To avoid getting a heat rash, it’s essential to stay cool and dry. The tips for treating a heat rash quickly are similar to those for preventing it altogether.
- When going for a workout, choose workout clothes that will draw moisture away from your skin to avoid sweating excessively. Cotton is gentle on your skin but doesn’t wick away moisture. Although newer sports fabrics are effective at drawing moisture out, they can be very tight on the skin and may cause heat rash if worn for too long, according to Rossi.
- To take care of your skin, it’s crucial to keep it cool and dry. It’s essential to change out of sweaty clothes promptly. According to Chapas, a cool shower can help cool down your body, and changing into a fresh shirt is recommended.
- Wear lightweight clothing, particularly items that do not cause friction against the skin.
- It’s best to remain in cool surroundings and avoid strenuous physical activity during hot weather.
- Drink plenty of water.
- To prevent moisture buildup, use antifungal powders in areas like your groin folds and armpits.
How long does a heat rash last?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, your heat rash will disappear within one to three days once your body cools down . Heat rashes that turn into pimples can take longer. See a doctor if your rash isn’t improving in a few days after using at-home treatments.
If your heat rash is not improving with DIY home treatments or if you notice signs of infection like redness, drainage, fever, nausea, or increased pain, seek medical attention immediately. It’s crucial to be extra careful with children who may scratch the rash and cause it to worsen.
If you have a persistent rash, it might be a different type of rash, insect bites, or a viral infection. Chapas says it might be something else if the rash is unrelated to sweating and spreads to areas like your chest, back, or legs.
A heat rash can also indicate you’re spending too much time in hot weather. Please don’t ignore it. Overheating can lead to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Excessive exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn and sun poisoning.