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What is heat rash?

21 Feb 2024
What is heat rash?

With the heat comes sweat. And sweat can sometimes cause heat rash. With the heat waves being more and more common, it doesn't necessarily mean you need to holiday in a hot climate to develop heat rash. What is heat rash, and how does it look like? How can you prevent it or treat it?

What is heat rash?

Heat rash is a skin rash known as miliaria or prickly heat. It happens when sweat ducts get blocked and trap the perspiration underneath the skin. The sweat leaks into the skin and causes inflammation.

What does prickly heat/heat rash look like?

Heat rash will manifest as small, red bumps (also known as papules). In some cases, it can feel extremely itchy and uncomfortable. It can also look like fluid-filled blisters.

Who is more prone to heat rash?

Most often, heat rash will affect children. They will break out along the neck, chest, shoulders, sometimes armpits, and elbow creases. Adults are less prone to it, but it doesn't mean they don't get affected. Heat rash will most commonly appear along the skin folds or where the clothes rub against the skin.

What is the cause of heat rash?

  • Adults are more prone to develop heat rash if they live in a hot and humid climate.
  • If you are physically active, you might develop a heat rash.
  • Tight clothing and bandages, for example, can also be the cause of heat rash.
  • People who are confined to bed or suffer from fever can develop heat rash.

How can you prevent heat rash?

Ideally, you want to prevent heat rash from happening in the first place. The best way to do this is to avoid sweating as much as possible. However, with the heat waves happening more often, avoiding sweating can be impossible. Since heat rash often happens when we wear tight clothing that doesn't wick away the sweat, it is best to opt for airy, light, loose clothing. Also, in these types of situations, materials like cotton work best because the air will be able to get to the skin.

What to do if you develop a heat rash


The good news is, although unpleasant, heat rash will go away on its own after a few days.

  • Showering with cold water can help ease the symptoms. But try to avoid washing with heavily scented products as these can irritate the skin further. Products for sensitive or irritated skin will work best.
  • Water sprays can help cool the area.
  • Likewise, lotions with oats can help soothe irritation. Calamine lotions are a good option, too.
  • Apply a cold compress or an ice pack to the affected area. If using an ice pack, don't apply it directly to the skin, wrap it in a towel.
  • Try not to scratch the skin, but rather pat it. Scratching can make the inflammation worse.
  • Don't forget to apply your sunscreen.

In some cases, if the condition is severe, you might need antihistamines or hydrocortisone cream. If that is the case, consult your GP or a pharmacist about the best course of treatment.

Have you ever experienced heat rash? And if you did, what worked best for you?