Heat Rash: Treatment, Symptoms, Causes, and More

Written by Resurchify | Updated on: March 03, 2023

Heat Rash: Treatment, Symptoms, Causes, and More

Ever felt discomfort after you had a great day out in the sun? Is your skin sensitive to heat and humidity? Do you frequently have rashes on your skin in summers or hot, humid weather? If your answer to all of these questions is yes, then the chances are that you are affected by heat rash. What exactly is a heat rash? How does it look? How to recognise heat rash? How to avoid heat rash? All these answers and many more await ahead. Read and find out some ways to make your next summer vacation comfortable and happy. 

Heat rash is a type of skin condition. Heat rash occurs when the skin pores are blocked, and the sweat can not escape. It usually affects adults and children in hot and humid weather conditions. 

The skin rashes can be of different types. Some can just be concerning; some can be uncomfortable, while some can be very painful. Heat rash is the most common type of skin rash.

What does a heat rash look like?

Depending on the severity, there are different types of heat rash, and all of them look a little different.

Miliaria Crystallina

The mildest and most common heat rash is miliaria crystallina. You can see fluid-filled small, clear or white bumps on the surface of your skin which are bubbles of sweat most likely to burst. Even though believed widely, these heat rash do not itch and are not painful. Young infants are more likely to get miliaria crystallina than adults.

Miliaria Rubra

Miliaria Rubra is popularly known as “prickly heat” and affects adults more than children and babies. It causes more discomfort than miliaria crystallina because these occur deeper in the outer skin layer. Miliaria Rubra affects you in hot and humid weather conditions and may cause:

  • Red bumps on the skin
  • Soreness and inflammation of the skin because the body can not release sweat through the skin’s surface
  • Itchy or prickly sensations
  • A shortage of sweat in the affected area

Sometimes, the bumps caused by miliaria rubra increase and fill with pus; this condition is called miliaria pustulosa.

Miliaria Profunda

This is the least common heat rash. They often recur and become chronic or take a long time to heal. They affect the dermis, the deeper skin layer. These primarily affect adults after intense physical activity producing sweat. The bumps due to miliaria profunda are large, tough and flesh-coloured. Because of heat rash, your body can not release sweat, and hence, it can cause nausea and dizziness.

Treatment of Heat Rash

Generally, a heat rash does not need treatment and resolves itself in a few days. But if you feel severe discomfort, you can try some home remedies to help soothe itching and reduce the skin's temperature. Some creams or medicines you can buy for heat rash management are:

  • Over the counter hydrocortisone cream. When applied 1-2 times per day, it can help soothe itching.
  • Over the counter antihistamines can also help soothe itching.

Home Remedies for Heat Rash

Apart from over the counter creams and medication, several non-medicinal or herbal remedies can also help soothe itching and redness. Some are:

  • Apply a cold compress. A chilled cloth or an ice pack can help you reduce the redness, itching and swelling. If you do not want freezer burns, always remember to wrap a towel or cloth around the ice pack before using it.
  • Take a low-temperature bath: Taking a lukewarm or cold bath will help reduce the skin temperature and itching. You can even try an exfoliant to open the affected pores up.
  • Keep indoor temperatures cool. An air conditioner or a fan will help bring down the room temperature and help soothe the rash discomfort. Move around once in a while if you are on bed rest to let air circulation through your body.
  • Wear loose, cotton clothing. Wearing breathable, natural, light-weight fabric instead of synthetics will help you avoid irritation and be comfortable. The cotton fabric allows the air to pass through it and keeps your body cool.
  • Take a colloidal oatmeal bath. An oatmeal bath helps a lot with soothing itching due to heat rash. A study conducted in 2015 suggested that oat's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects might be the reason behind the soothing effect.
  • Use topical pine tar. People have been using topical pine tar to treat skin conditions for thousands of years. A 2016 review said that applying pine tar to your rash can reduce itching and inflammation.
  • Put on aloe vera gel to the affected area: Aloe vera is also a topical remedy people have used for a long time to treat skin ailments.
  • Mix sandalwood with and apply the paste to the heat rash. A study conducted in 2011 found that sandalwood, a ubiquitous herb in Ayurveda, is a good cure for inflammation across many skin conditions.

Symptoms of Heat Rash

The symptoms of heat rash often occur in the sweat prone areas of the body like:

  • Face
  • Beneath your scrotum
  • Underneath the breasts
  • Neck

The symptoms can be:

  • An itching sensation
  • Slight swelling
  • Small raised spots called papules

The spots may appear red on lighter skin. On darker skin, the identification of heat rash can be more challenging. But a dermatologist, using a dermoscopy, can identify it. Dermoscopy involves a small, lighted microscope that zooms in on the skin. The spots might be like white globules with dark halos around them on darker skin.

Causes of Heat Rash

A heat rash occurs when the skin pores are clogged, and the sweat can not escape. The reasons leading to this can be warm and humid weather or an intense workout. Some clothes can also lead to heat rash by trapping the sweat. Applying thick creams and lotions can also cause heat rash. Heat rash can also happen in the cold weather if you wear clothes or sleep in blankets that tend to overheat. Babies are more vulnerable to heat rash because of underdeveloped skin pores.

Heat rash can also be caused by friction on the skin surface. Heat rash generally occurs in adults in the parts that rub together, like under the arms or between the inner thighs. Babies usually have a skin rash on the neck, but they can also occur in skin folds like the elbows, armpits or thighs. 

  • Your sweat ducts might become blocked when you sweat more than usual, trapping perspiration deep beneath the skin's surface. Sweat can also flow into the epidermis, the top layer of skin, and become trapped there.
  • Prickly heat can strike at any time of year, but it is more common in the summer. When people who are used to milder temperatures travel to places with much greater temperatures than they are used to, they may experience prickly heat.
  • Some bacteria, including Staphylococcus, have been related to prickly heat. These bacteria are typically harmless on the skin, but they can produce a film that clogs sweat ducts and contributes to skin problems.
  • The following factors can also cause prickly heat:
    • Medicine patches that stick to skin
    • Oral medicines, including beta-blockers
    • Exercising or working in hot climates
    • Tight bandages
    • Health conditions like hyperhidrosis that cause you to sweat excessively
    • Fevers
    • Tight or warm clothing

Risk Factors

The risk of developing increases with certain lifestyle habits or health problems like:

  • Regularly engaging in high-intensity physical activity
  • Morvan syndrome: a genetic disorder that is rare and causes excessive sweating
  • Drug intake that triggers sweating like bethanechol, clonidine and neostigmine
  • Being prone to enormous sweating
  • Type 1 pseudohypoaldosteronism: a condition causing a loss of sodium through the sweat glands that have some link to heat rash

When should you consult a doctor?

Heat rash is quite normal and mild. Usually, it disappears through treatment in a few days. But if you experience the following, you should consult a doctor. 

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Pus draining from the bumps
  • Increased pain

If your child’s heat rash does not cure in a few days, consult a doctor. The doctor may recommend you to use lotions on the affected area like lanolin or calamine to prevent further damage and relieve itching. Keep your baby’s skin dry and cool to avoid and ease heat rash. 

Prevention of Heat Rash

These tips can help you prevent heat rash:

  • Avoid clothes that are tight and constrict the skin from breathing. Moisture-wicking fabrics are a great alternative to help avoid sweat build-up on the skin surface.
  • Do not use thick lotions or creams that can clog pores
  • Try not to become overheated, especially in the warmer weather. Carry a hand-held fan or seek air conditioning. 
  • Use soap without fragrances and dyes, and one that does not dry your skin. 

What is Prickly Heat?

It is a skin condition that affects adults and children when the sweat is trapped under the skin layers and can not escape. It is also called Miliaria Rubra, sweat rash or heat rash. Prickly heat is itchy and uncomfortable, but nothing to worry about. Some treatment and prevention tips can help ease and prevent prickly heat from recurring. These are mild and do not require a visit to the doctor.

Symptoms of Prickly Heat

Symptoms of prickly heat include red bumps and itching. It is due to the sweat trapped underneath the layers of the skin. 

  • The most common places for prickly heat are the neck, shoulders and chest. Prickly heat might also affect the areas with skin folds or where your clothes rub against your skin. 
  • The reaction to rash may appear on your skin in some days or show right away. 
  • Sometimes prickly heat occurs in the form of a patch with blisters on your skin. This is the skin's reaction to the sweat leaked between the skin layers. Other times the reacted area with trapped sweat will itch persistently or appear swollen. 
  • Some people may also develop pustules in the area affected by prickly heat. This condition is called miliaria pustulosa. It can indicate a bacterial infection.  

Eczema: Eczema (also atopic dermatitis) is a skin ailment characterised by itchy, irritated skin. It is most common in children and teenagers, but it can affect anyone. It flares up now and again and may require long-term treatment.

Causes and Triggers of Prickly Heat

The most common trigger of a prickly heat rash is hot weather, particularly humid. The body produces sweat to cool down the skin. The glands can become overwhelmed with excess sweating, blocking the sweat ducts trapping the sweat deep underneath the skin. The leakage of sweat may also be through the top layers of skin and get trapped there. Prickly heat can affect you in any weather, but the most common in warm weather. People living in cooler places tend to develop heat rash while travelling to tropical locations with significantly higher temperatures.


Infection is the most prevalent consequence of prickly heat. Heat exhaustion can also be caused by being in a hot atmosphere that causes prickly heat.

  • Scratching is the most prevalent cause of subsequent infection from prickly heat. Scratching causes skin splits. Therefore, if you get an infection, you'll need antibiotics. If you notice signs of a skin infection, seek medical help.
  • Heat exhaustion causes a person to sweat profusely and have chilly, clammy skin. Dizziness, weakness, headaches, blurred vision, nausea, confusion, and difficulty breathing are possible symptoms.
  • Heat exhaustion that isn't addressed can swiftly turn into heatstroke, which is a medical emergency. The following are symptoms of heatstroke:
    • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Seizures (rare)
    • Sweating often ceases
    • Flushing, hot skin
    • Confusion
    • Fever of 103 degrees or more
  • If you or your friend is experiencing or showing indications of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, seek medical care immediately once. Go inside, find a shady spot, or use a fan to keep cool. Use an ice pack or drink cold water to keep your body cool.

Prickly Heat and Babies

Children, especially infants, are more likely to develop prickly heat due to underdeveloped sweat glands and the inability to adjust to rapidly changing temperatures. The areas prickly heat affects the most are the face and skin folds around the neck and groin. Prickly heat is like any other rash and will normally go away in a few days. The itchy sensation due to heat rash may make your baby cranky and difficult to soothe. If a small patch of tiny red blisters appears on your baby’s skin, evaluate the cause. Check they are not wearing appropriate clothes for the weather and not too many layers. 

If your baby is restless and their urine indicates dehydration, a cool bath will relax your baby in most situations. Do not forget to keep their skin dry during the day and avoid using oil-based products. Oil-based products tend to clog pores. Call your paediatrician if your baby’s body temperature goes over 100.4°F (38°C) or if there are other symptoms.

Heat Rash Treatment For Babies

  • Try to keep your child cool and dry if they have a heat rash. Dress them in light cotton clothing with a few layers.
  • A lukewarm bath will help relieve itching, but don't use soap because it will aggravate the skin inflammation. Apply a cool, moist towel to the affected areas to ease the pain.
  • To prevent your child from scratching, you can discuss options with your doctor or pharmacist, such as calamine lotion or corticosteroid cream. The spots will not become infected as a result of this.
  • You should change sweaty clothing and soiled diapers frequently. After a bath, make sure they are dry in their skin folds and don't use a plastic mattress.

Ways to Calm the Itchy or Prickly Feeling

Usually, heat rash, including prickly heat, will disappear in a few days without any treatment. The primary step to soothe prickly heat is to get away from the trigger (or environment) that is causing you to sweat. It may take some time before the itching subsides once you are in a cooler place.

Other remedies can be:

  • Avoiding skin products containing petroleum or mineral oil
  • Applying a cold compress, which you can easily make at home using a plastic bag or towel
  • Wearing light, loose-fitting clothes
  • Avoiding perfumed soaps or body care products

Sometimes, a health care professional may recommend triamcinolone 0.1% cream. It is a topical corticosteroid available only by prescription in the United States. For miliaria pustulosa, the doctor may suggest you a topical antibiotic like clindamycin. There is also a variety of over the counter medicines for prickly heat.

Over the Counter Products

A natural remedy for prickly heat is the calamine lotion which helps cool the skin when applied over the affected area. Other products are:

  • Topical or oral antihistamines to reduce itching
  • Anhydrous lanolin: an ointment derived from wool and is waxy in texture
  • Over the counter corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone cream in a low dosage

If you have a fever and prickly heat, you may consider taking a fever reducer like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Always consult a doctor before giving these medicines to your children. 

Prevention Tips of Prickly Heat

The best way to avoid prickly heat is to avoid situations that cause excessive sweating. You can try the following:

  • Stay well-hydrated
  • Change your baby's diaper immediately after it gets wet or soiled
  • While exercising outside, wear clothes that will wick the moisture away from your skin
  • Remember to change sweaty clothes right after experiencing intense heat
  • Spend a few hours every day in a cool place with fans or an air conditioner in a hot or humid climate
  • Use lightweights, like cotton or linen sheets
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes in hot and humid weather
  • Take cool baths or shower frequently when the climate around you is hot or humid

You've learned most of what you need to know about a heat rash. Remember the preventive strategies for heat rash the next time you're out in the sun, and you'll have a worry-free trip.

Itchy, irritated, and painful skin are all possible side effects. A rash that emerges as little bumps is known as prickly heat. It's caused by an obstruction of the sweat glands, common in hot, humid environments. Prickly heat can usually be addressed at home using over-the-counter medications. If the prickly heat rash appears to be growing worse, you fear an infection, or you show signs of heat exhaustion; you should consult your doctor. In hot, humid areas, You can avoid prickly heat by minimising its origins and maintaining cool and hydrated.

Prickly heat is rarely a cause for alarm, and it usually goes away on its own. It is, nevertheless, still necessary to be aware of the signs and repercussions. During the summer months and while exercising or working outside, make sure you stay hydrated and cool. Scratching can also lead to the breakdown of the skin, which can lead to infection. If you have a rash that is growing worse or appears to be infected, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. Finally, be on the lookout for indications of heat exhaustion and transfer to a cooler location as soon as you see them.

Minor discomfort, spots, itching, and swelling are all symptoms of heat rash. There are various varieties, each with a somewhat different appearance. For the most part, it resolves itself in a few days. Staying cool in hot weather, wearing loose clothing, and avoiding thick lotions are all ways to prevent it. If you think you could have something more severe or if you have a recurrent heat rash, see your doctor.





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