How Heat Rash Is Treated

Overheating man standing in the sun
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In This Article

Treating a heat rash (also known as miliaria) is pretty straightforward and, for both kids and adults, involves keeping the area cool, dry, and irritation-free. Most of the time, heat rash is composed of small, prickly, itchy bumps with a halo around them (miliaria ruba, or prickly heat) that are uncomfortable, but otherwise not of concern. But the condition can cause pus-containing vesicles (miliaria profunda) and lead to infection if not properly treated.

A heat rash is most often in the folds of the skin, under the breasts and groin area, as well as on the legs, chest, arms, and back (where sweat often accumulates). Although a heat rash usually goes away on its own in a few days, there are some simple home remedies and effective over-the-counter products to help treat heat rash and prevent it in the first place.

Heat rash is also commonly referred to as diaper rash, summer rash, or wildfire rash.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

Like the name implies, a heat rash is caused by sweat glands that become blocked and trapped under the skin. It is common in people who live in hot, humid climates and in those who sweat a lot. Infants, who have immature sweat glands, and people who are on bed rest are also prone to heat rash.

There are many things you can do in the comfort of your own home to prevent and soothe a heat rash, and these are especially important if any of the above circumstances apply:

  • Take cool baths and showers and wash gently to unclog any pores that may be contributing to the rash. If possible, let your skin air-dry.
  • Wear loose, moisture-wicking clothing and avoid overdressing.
  • Keep your bedroom cool.
  • Get out of the heat; air conditioning is ideal.
  • Exercise during the coolest part of the day or indoors.
  • Rinse off with cool water.
  • Avoid thick ointments, including moisturizers, that block sweat ducts.
  • Apply cool compresses using room temperature/slightly cool water
  • Make your own anti-itch bath, using oatmeal, baking soda, or Epsom salt.
  • Allow your baby to go diaper-free whenever possible and/or consider cotton cloth diapers.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Therapies

Several OTC products work well to help in the treatment of heat rashes. Usually, when combined with home remedies, these products are sufficient to keep the area dry, relieve itching, and prevent any new bumps from forming or bursting.

In the case of an infant, talk to your pediatrician before trying any of these OTC therapies.

  • Drying agents (unscented talc, baby powder, antiperspirants): Use as directed and avoid using powder on/near female genitalia.
  • Calamine lotion
  • Aloe vera
  • Corticosteroid cream with a bit of menthol, although this usually is not needed
  • Antihistamines (topical or oral)
  • Anhydrous lanolin

Prescriptions

If a heat rash turns into a secondary infection—this can occur in the most severe form of heat rash (millaria pustulosa)—you may be prescribed oral or topical antibiotics.

It’s best to notify your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following signs of infection

  • The rash appears on one side or is asymmetrical (not under both breasts or both armpits)
  • White or light coloring over the red rash
  • Flaking skin
  • Pus oozing from the rash
  • Blisters or boils

A Word From Verywell

If you are susceptible to these pesky skin flares, try to be vigilant about taking preventative measures to keep those areas where you sweat most dry, cool, and infection-free.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "12 Summer Skin Problems You Can Prevent." https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/summer-skin-problems.

  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. “Prickly Heat (Miliaria)." https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/sweating-disorders/prickly-heat.

  • O'Connor NR, McLaughlin MR, Ham P. Newborn skin: Part I. Common rashesAm Fam Physician. 2008; 77(1):47-52. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/0101/p47.html.