Is Your Groin Irritation from Heat Rash?

Heat rash is a skin condition that can affect anyone—from infants to older adults. It's also referred to as miliaria, sweat rash, and prickly heat.

Heat rash develops when the pores or sweat glands in your skin become blocked. When pores are obstructed, your sweat is trapped under your skin, forming bumps and irritation. The rash is most common during hot and humid weather.

Most cases of heat rash heal on their own, but severe blockages may require medical care to clear the pores.

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of heat rash and other conditions that can cause groin irritation.

rash around the groin area

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Heat Rash Symptoms

Heat rash in adults or children usually develops in areas where clothing causes friction or skin rubs together, such as skinfolds, armpits, elbow creases, the groin, thighs, or behind the knees. In infants, the rash usually develops on the neck, shoulders, and chest.

The rash can range from mild to severe, and how it is referred to is based on the symptoms a person has and the appearance of the rash.

Heat rash can take three forms, including:

  • Miliaria crystallina is the mildest form of heat rash, only affecting the top layer of skin. It appears as small clear or white bumps filled with fluid on the skin. The fluid in the bumps is sweat that is stuck under the skin from a blocked pore. The bumps easily burst. This type of heat rash usually is not painful.
  • Miliaria rubra is the most common form of heat rash. It affects deeper layers of skin and causes an inflammatory response. The rash causes red bumps, which may fill with pus. Other symptoms include itching, a prickling sensation, soreness, inflammation, and lack of sweat in the area.
  • Miliaria profunda is the rarest form of heat rash and affects the deepest layer of skin. It’s more likely to develop in people who have experienced multiple heat rashes. The inflammation progresses to larger, firm, flesh-colored bumps. The bumps are not centered around a pore because they form from sweat that is leaking from a sweat gland into the surrounding skin.

Other Causes of Groin Rashes

There are several conditions that can cause irritation in the groin area. These conditions might be mistaken for heat rash.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that causes skin cells to build up and form patches on the skin. The patches are usually red and develop white or silvery scales. The skin is dry, itchy, and may bleed.

The patches can appear anywhere on the body, but psoriasis usually affects the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.

Chafing

Chafing develops from skin rubbing against skin or clothing. The outer layer of skin becomes irritated and breaks down. Symptoms of chafing include redness, bumps, stinging, blisters, bleeding, and warm and peeling skin.

While chafing can be mistaken for heat rash, they do not occur for the same reasons. Chafing happens when the skin becomes damaged. Heat rash is caused by blocked pores.

Atopic Dermatitis

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune response. It causes itchy, red, dry, and cracked skin. It can also cause blisters.

People with eczema tend to have sensitive skin. Their symptoms can be triggered by foods, soap, pollen, and fragrances in products.

Jock Itch

Jock itch is a skin condition that is caused by a fungal infection that produces an itchy, red rash. Fungal infections are more likely to develop in warm and moist areas like skinfolds, armpits, and the groin.

Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a small, scaly rash. It first appears on the torso and spreads to the upper arms, thighs, or neck. The rash might itch, especially when a person is exercising or gets hot.

Diagnosis

Your primary care provider will likely be able to diagnose heat rash by examining the affected area. If doctors suspect another condition, they might order a blood test or take a sample of the affected area for testing.

They may also refer you to a dermatologist—a doctor who specializes in skin conditions—to help diagnose or treat the rash.

Treatment

Mild heat rash can be easily treated at home by keeping the skin cool and dry. Try to avoid heating the area until it’s healed.

If the area is itchy, stinging, or painful, ointments and creams are available that can help soothe your symptoms, including:

  • Calamine lotion
  • Anhydrous lanolin
  • Topical steroids

Other steps that you can take to help ease the symptoms of heat rash and give your skin a chance to heal include:

  • Wear loose-fitting and moisture-wicking clothing.
  • Avoid lotions and creams that clog pores (like petroleum jelly).
  • Change out of wet or sweaty clothing as soon as possible.
  • Take cool showers quickly after sweating.

In severe cases, heat rash can become infected. If this happens, the pus-filled bumps may need to be drained by your healthcare provider.

If your rash is caused by another condition, you will need different treatment—though some aspects might be similar, including:

  • Chafing can be treated by changing into dry clothing quickly after getting sweaty or wet, wearing loose clothing, reducing friction, and keeping the area cool.
  • Jock itch can be treated with antifungal creams.
  • Psoriasis can be managed by lightly exfoliating the skin and using ointments and creams.
  • Eczema symptoms can be managed with anti-itch creams and lotions.

When to See a Doctor

Most cases of heat rash clear up with good hygiene and keeping the area cool. However, if you have signs of an infection, you'll need to talk to your doctor.

Signs that heat rash has become infected include:

  • Pain, swelling, and warmth around the affected skin
  • Oozing or draining pus
  • Fever or chills

Blocked sweat glands can affect your body’s ability to regulate your body temperature, which could lead to overheating and heat exhaustion.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Dizziness
  • Faintness or passing out
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion

If you’re experiencing heat exhaustion, move to a cooler place and rest. If your symptoms do not improve, seek medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes a rash in the groin area?

Multiple conditions can cause a rash in the groin area, including heat rash, chafing, atopic dermatitis, jock itch, psoriasis, and pityriasis rosea.

How do you treat a rash in your groin area?

Treating a rash depends on what is causing it. However, many skin conditions in the groin area can be helped by keeping the skin dry, wearing breathable clothing, avoiding irritants, and using anti-itch creams.

What does heat rash look like?

Mild heat rash looks like small white or clear bumps filled with fluid on the surface of the skin. More severe forms of heat rash may appear as red, inflamed, firm lumps that are filled with pus. 

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5 Sources
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