How Heat Rash Is Treated

Overheating man standing in the sun
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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/ 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, and powders as these can 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

Usually, home remedies are the best way to treat heat rash. If the rash is itchy and inflamed, talk to your doctor and see whether they suggest using an OTC corticosteroid cream. One with menthol may be soothing.

While it can be tempting to use other OTC products such as body powder, creams, and lotions, they can further block your pores. This is the opposite of what you need to clear up the rash.

Prescriptions

For a severe heat rash, your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve the pain and discomfort.

The most severe form of heat rash (miliaria pustulosa) has the potential to develop into a secondary infection. Notify your health care 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

If you develop a secondary infection, you may be prescribed oral or topical antibiotics.

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

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  2. Guerra KC, Krishnamurthy K. Miliaria. In: StatPearls. Updated December 26, 2018.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology. 12 summer skin problems you can prevent.

  4. American Academy of Family Physicians. Heat rash. Updated June 27, 2017.

  5. Cleveland Clinic. Does your child have a heat rash? Cool it down—here's how. Updated May 26, 2016.