Heat Rash Treatment

Treatment for Heat Rash Depends on the Cause

Heat of the day
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Heat rash can develop in people of all ages. How you treat your heat rash depends on the type you have. There are two kinds of heat rash:

  1. Intertrigo: This heat rash forms in the folds of the skin where moisture and friction combine to make the skin raw and irritated.
  2. Prickly heat (miliaria) is a bumpy rash caused by blocked sweat glands.

Treating Heat Rash in Folds of the Skin

Moisture is the enemy when intertrigo heat rash forms in folds or creases in the skin.

As the skin moves and rubs against itself, it becomes raw and irritated and may exhibit chafing. Moisture makes the irritation worse and inflammation develops.

There are some problem areas that are prone to friction heat rashes: under the breasts, armpits, fat rolls, between the thighs, between the toes and between the butt cheeks. The rash can be acute or chronic.

To add insult to injury, raw skin is vulnerable to infections from fungus, yeast, or bacteria. The heat and the moisture make those same folds of the skin perfect places to grow all three. If infection has developed, the rash is more likely to be just on one side and asymmetrical. If it is inflammatory, it will tend to affect areas symmetrically, such as under both breasts or in both armpits.

Treatment for heat rashes caused by friction is based on reducing friction and reducing moisture.

  • Drying agents, like talc or baby powder, will make the area feel better.
  • When possible, let the area get some air—preferably dry, cool air.

Babies are prone to these types of heat rashes because they have cute little fat rolls and diapers, which trap moisture. This is what is called a diaper rash. Using baby powder and letting them go without a diaper works for babies, and those tactics can work for adults as well.

If a friction heat rash gets infected, it may be time to see the doctor. Some infections are very common, such as athlete's foot or a yeast infection. Others are less common but can be even more dangerous, like a staph or MRSA infection. Look for:

  • White or light coloring over the red rash
  • Flaking skin
  • Pus oozing from the rash
  • Blisters or boils

Treating Prickly Heat

The other type of heat rash is called prickly heat (miliaria). Sweat can't escape through blocked ducts, causing lots of little skin bumps. Prickly heat is found mostly on the legs, chest, arms, and back. It's often made worse by being covered up.

Treatment for prickly heat is all about cooling off:

  • Uncover the area.
  • Get out of the heat.
  • Rinse off with cool water.

Prevention

Preventing either kind of heat rash involves the same tips recommended for treatment. In other words, whatever works to make a heat rash better is likely to prevent it in the first place. Use baby powder or chafing-preventing lubricants in areas prone to intertrigo. Keep cool to prevent prickly heat.

Sources:

Heat Rash. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-rash/symptoms-causes/syc-20373276.

Intertrigo. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003223.htm.

O'Connor NR, McLaughlin MR, Ham P. Newborn skin: Part I. Common rashesAm Fam Physician. 2008 Jan 1;77(1):47-52.

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