Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Viddhi Patel (Journalist) on 18th Feb 2021

How to Avoid and Treat Heat Rashes in Summers

How to Avoid and Treat Heat Rashes

DDon’t let heat rashes get to you this summer!

Summer is often not always sunny and dreamy like you want it to be, for many reasons. A hot day out in the summer might give you reasons to worry. The water bubbles or red bumps that pop up on these sunny days are quite annoying and itchy. Well, this also gives you and all of us a reason to believe that skincare in summers doesn't just end at sunscreens and hydration, but it goes beyond the basics.

The red bumps that you start noticing in the scorching summer are heat rashes. You might know this skin condition scientifically termed miliaria as sweat rash, wildfire rash, or prickly heat.

You are likely to confuse this painfully uncomfortable condition with a sunburn, but mind you that high, humid temperatures and the scorching sun are potential conditions for a heat rash to develop. These small, itchy, fluid-filled red, irritating bumps appear on the skin that was not even exposed to the sun, like your thighs. They often prickle, burn, or itch.

Heat rashes are quite common in babies, but we all know it isn't just babies! If you have been experiencing heat rashes almost every summer, it is time you start paying heed to what your body is telling you and start listening to it. Heat rashes often disappear in a few days, sometimes even hours, but it is also a sign that your body is getting heated up and that you need to cool it down before it gets severe.

Heat rashes appear when the hair follicles on your skin or pores are blocked with heat or trapped with sweat, if you may. But it doesn't end here. As simple as you have made it out to be all these years, there are various types of skin rashes. And they are quite uncomfortable and annoyingly painful, so you must get to know the heat that your body is trapping in and get rid of it effectively.

Let us dive in deeper to know the basics and the specifics.  

What are heat rashes?

While skin protects your body from the outside world, it also controls your body's temperature, and it does that by sweating. Although the sweat is supposed to evaporate, the sweat ducts get clogged, and sweat doesn't reach the skin's surface, gets trapped beneath the skin's surface, and causes a mild inflammation or rash.

This clogging and trapping of perspiration under the sweat ducts result from hot and humid weather that sunny summers bring with them. The skin that gets most affected on your body is the one that has folds and the body parts that face the most friction, like thighs, under the arms, near your groin, neck, back, and under the arms regardless it can occur on any part of the body.

Heat rashes develop when pores block sweat, and this happens in hot, humid weather conditions since you sweat profusely in such conditions. 

Did you know?

Your body has about 4M sweat glands.  

Heat rashes appear in different forms. While one may look like small blisters, the other looks like acne. This one is often referred to as prickly heat as they are irritating and itchy.

Your neck is an area with easy, excessive access to sweat glands, and the amount of sweat released doesn't often evaporate and gets clogged in the sweat glands causing rashes.

On the other hand, your thighs are prey to rashes caused by constant friction with clothes, and overly fitted clothes lead to rashes.

Heat rashes often are not severe and go away on their own when the temperatures turn cooler. The discomfort they bring demands your attention towards prevention and treatment. Also, if you continue to sweat profusely, it can get worse. Although rare, an infection might be on its way too.

People who are overweight often have extra skin folds and these folds trap more sweat and hence are more likely to get heat rashes. If you sweat easily or exercise outdoors in the heat eases it up for rashes to develop. Tight clothing doesn't let sweat evaporate, trapping it in. 

Preventing heat rashes and annoying sweat beads

You may already be aware that this condition plagues your summer days, proving heat rashes to be pretty irritating. So, preventing might be a better bet here since you can evade heat rashes with certain precautions.

Expose your skin to circulating air; this will reduce your sweat ducts' potential to get blocked. Do not let the heat accumulate in your body parts. Keep them cool.

The most basic prevention: Don't let the sweat trap in or sit in. But this is quite vague for you to follow. So, here are ways you can do that.

One reason that sweat is bothering your skin is that you are trapping it beneath tight-fitted clothes. Sweat only cools down the body temperature when it reaches the surface and evaporates.  

  • So wear loose-fitting clothes, the ones that let your skin breathe and allow perspiration to escape your skin, promoting cooling. Wear lightweight fabrics, like cotton, and avoid synthetic, polyester, and nylon fabrics. 
  • Keep your neck cool and dry, do not rub on the area with a towel after washing; pat dries instead. 
  • Do not wear tight jeans as much as possible when you suffer from heat rashes on your thighs.  
  • Keep yourself hydrated, cool your body down by drinking enough fluids.  
  • Don't aggravate sweating by exercising in the heat; limit your physical activity in hotter environments. And if you do exercise, wash off the skin with mild soap and pat dry.

Cold showers and baths will help your body cool down, so take them frequently enough and pat your skin completely dry. This will also ensure your sweat glands won't get clogged by keeping the skin clean.

Gentle exfoliation will also eliminate all the dead skin cells and sebum that traps in the sweat glands. But do not use a soap that has an overpowering need to cleanse and that will dry your skin. Also, avoid soaps that have fragrances and dyes.  

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  • Dress for the climate: this will reduce the risks of irritation. Avoid hotter temperatures, and by that, I also mean hot tubs and sauna.  
  • Avoid the sun, do not smoke, and wear sunscreen: these are the most basic measures you can take to keep your skin stronger and evade the likeliness of the collapsed ducts from bringing the doom of heat rashes. 
  • Heat rashes are often an outcome of occupational demands. Hotter working environments mean heat rashes, and hence you should change clothes usually and make efforts to stay cool and dry.  
  • Moreover, get rid of the wet clothes as soon as possible. Be it sweat or even if you are dripping wet after a swim, dry your skin out immediately.  

Treating that harsh heat rash.

Although they do resolve on their own, the irritation can be quite unbearable. If you want to get rid of the rash quickly, treat it right to soothe irritation by following these steps. 

  • The self-limiting condition heals itself when your body is allowed to breathe and when it has cooled down. So, move to more relaxed environments, air conditioning and oscillating fans, as they work fine to cool your body down. Stop the sweating that is clogging the ducts. 

Do not let your body get overheated & get out of the heat. Move away from the sun if you are exposed to it, seek shade, lower your body temperature.

Keep your room well-ventilated and cool when you sleep.  

  • When it comes to your neck, avoid wearing necklaces and jewelry that can further irritate the blisters.  
  • Do not wear tight-jeans and clothes that will further suffocate the skin on your thighs. Any clothing for that matter that can make you sweat more should be avoided. Go light and loose that will help with the healing.
  • If you do have heat rashes, scrubbing them and rubbing the affected area will not make them disappear. Do not make it worse by scratching them, instead of patting it or tap it if it is itchy.  
  • Cool it down with air fans or air-conditioning while you are healing. Let the rashes dry out. 
  • Another method to cool down your rashes is to put on a cold cloth or ice pack on the affected area. To soothe irritation instantly, take a facecloth, dip it in cold water, take the ice, and wrap it in the cold, thus forming a cold compress and putting it on for 20 minutes. Then pat it dry completely and expose it to cool air. Then sprinkle some baby powder over it to soothe your skin.  

Cold compresses effectively reduce the pain and soothe irritation when it comes to heat rash.  

  • While applying a soothing heavy moisturizer might seem a good idea, it is not.  

Do not let the sweat trap in by lathering your skin with heavy lotions and creams. It will trap the sweat and aggravate the condition, not letting your skin breathe.

Heat rashes often subside within 24 hours. Regardless, OTC measures you can take that soothe and treat stubbornly persistent heat rashes if all of the above doesn't seem to make a difference.

Topical preparation that NCBI recommends are corticosteroids, triamcinolone to be precise will decrease the inflammation. Steroid creams also reduce itching and inflammation and should be by people above ten years of age. Following are topical measures that will help you ease rash.  

Calamine lotion  

Calamine lotion will treat your heat rash by soothing the itchiness and the prickly sensation, dab some on the affected part/area, and let it soothe the area.

Hydrocortisone cream 

Apply the cream once or twice (1-2) a day to soothe the itching and relieve your skin of the heat rash. 

Talcum powder

Unscented talcum powder will absorb the sweat and reduce sweating; this action doesn't allow the pores to get blocked and hence are good to cool your body down. Coat your inner thighs and also neck with the talc and let it sit. 

Neem 

The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory popular plant has healing abilities that help your skin immensely.

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There are also topical antibiotic preparations, for instance, clindamycin, available for managing and preventing infection caused due to heat rashes. But the studies on humans are quite limited to call it a robust treatment.

Other topical preparations are menthol, camphor-based creams that aim at reducing itching. Colloidal oatmeal antihistamines and are other soothing options that will help you relieve the prickly sensation. Antibiotic treatments are prescribed when your sweat glands become infected, and these infections often prove to be quite painful. 

Advice By Minimalist

Avoid oil-based products; they will further block your sweat glands.

Keep your body cool and let it breathe.

Keep yourself hydrated.

See a doctor when you feel the rash is getting worse, and you notice the development of possible infections like increased pain, swelling, pus, warmth in the area, and fever or chills. 

Wrapping up  

Heat rashes aren't something you need to sweat over (more than you usually do).

Keep cool in hot weather and take some precautions.