Heat Rash On Skin: Symptoms and Treatments

woman in the summer
Photo by Angelo Pantazis on Unsplash

With the summer comes increased heat and humidity, an excellent time to be out and about. This climate also brings the increased risk of heat rash and sun damage. Think you have/are prone to getting a heat rash? Common symptoms, precautions and treatments are below;

What is heat rash?

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat or miliaria is a common skin condition which often occurs in hot and humid weather conditions.

Heat rash occurs when the small sweat glands in the skin get blocked and are unable to secrete sweat onto the skin. Sweating, or perspiring, is the most common method through which the body regulates temperature. When you perspire, the water droplets formed evaporate off the skin, cooling it down.

When the sweat glands get blocked and cannot channel sweat onto the surface of the skin it can overheat, this results in a uncomfortable red rash known as heat rash.

What are the symptoms of heat rash?

woman sweating
Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash

The most common symptoms of heat rash are as follows;

Red bumps and spots on the skin

Small red bumps and spots can appear on the skin, common areas for heat rash include areas with skin folds such as the armpit and groin area, but it can appear anywhere on the body.

Blisters

In some cases heat rash may lead to blisters which are filled with fluid to form, these are prone to bursting from friction brought about by clothes or rubbing.

Itchiness, uncomfortable prickly feeling

Heat rash can cause a general uncomfortable feeling around the affected area, it can itch or feel prickly.

Redness and swelling

The affected areas are prone to redness and swelling as a result of overheating.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can develop heat rash but there are certain people that are more susceptible.

Babies are at risk for heat rash as they cannot control body temperature as effectively as adults and young children.

Overweight individuals are also at risk due to increased skin chaffing and increased contact areas.

The elderly have an increased risk of heat rash development due to lack of movement, this means reduced exposure to cool air.

Treatments for heat rash

sunglasses on books depicting treatment
Photo by Link Hoang on Unsplash

Heat rash often goes away on it’s own after a few days. There are also many over-the-counter medications available for treating heat rash, speak to a pharmacist if you’re concerned.

Hydrocortisone creams

Hydrocortisone creams are used to treat skin inflammation, redness and itching. These creams can help minimise the irritation associated with heat rash and help accelerate the healing process.

Antihistamines

Certain antihistamine tablets can help relieve the itchy, uncomfortable feeling brought about by heat rash.

Calamine lotions

Calamine lotions are used to treat skin itchiness. This lotion won’t necessarily help to heal the rash but will definitely ease the symptoms.

At-home remedies for heat rash

glasses on book for home remedies

If for whatever reason you cannot get your hands on over-the-counter medicines or just prefer home remedies, below are just a few proven to alleviate symptoms of rashes and inflamed skin;

Ice packs

Ice packs can help cool the skin and reduce the inflammation and redness associated with heat rash.

Cold showers

A cold shower can cool the skin down and minimise symptoms of a heat rash.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera possesses many anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help with the heat rash. Not only will this prevent infections, it can soothe swelling and skin redness. Apply pure aloe vera gel to the affected sites for instant relief.

Precautions to prevent heat rash

woman floating on body of water
Photo by Haley Phelps on Unsplash

You should take the following precautions to prevent the formation of heat rash;

Wear loose, breathable clothing

When the weather is hot and humid, tight clothing which sticks and rubs against the skin can promote the development of heat rash by constricting air flow. Ensure you wear loose clothing made of breathable fabrics when it’s hot outside or when you’re engaging in physical activities such as running or cycling. Examples of breathable fabrics include cotton and linen.

Use air conditioning & fans

If you’re inside on a hot day make sure you turn the air conditioning or any fans on to promote air circulation and cool the room. If you’re prone to heat rash this will keep the skin cool and minimise the risk of rash formation.

Limit exercise

Exercise significantly increases the probability of heat rash developing. Physical activity means more friction against body parts from clothing as well as increased body heat; contributory factors for heat rash. Limit exercise when it’s hot and humid outside, consider working out later in the day when it’s cooler.

Cleanse the skin thoroughly

Sweat glands can become clogged through excess dirt and oils present on the skin. Taking a warm shower with a gentle cleanser and using an exfoliating brush or loofah can minimise the potential of this happening. When it’s hot and humid outside you should be taking a shower/bath every day to keep your skin clean.

Use non-comedogenic creams and lotions (preferably oil-free)

Using heavy oil-based creams and lotions increase the risk of clogged pores and therefore heat rash. Try and purchase lighter, gel-based formulations which have a cooling sensation on the skin and won’t block your pores. The last thing you want on a hot day is an oily complexion too, using lighter creams will mitigate that.

Stay hydrated

You should up your water intake in hot environment as you’re more prone to dehydration. By keeping your water intake high, your body can more effectively regulate temperature through perspiration, minimising the probability of heat rash.

To sum it up

Heat rash is a common skin condition affecting thousands of people every year, more-so during the summer months where the weather is hot and humid. Heat rash symptoms include small red spots, blisters, redness and inflammation of the skin and general itchiness.

To prevent heat rash you should wear loose, breathable clothing; limit exercise when it’s hot outside; use air conditioning when possible and stay hydrated.

Heat rash usually goes away on it’s own after a few days but in some cases it can last longer, or even worsen and lead to infection. If you’re concerned, visit a licensed medical practitioner for professional advice.

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