Heat rash is a painful skin condition that often occurs in hot weather. The symptoms of heat rash include small clusters of tiny, raised bumps on discolored, irritated skin. A prickly, burning or itchy sensation may also accompany heat rash.
Heat rash is also known as prickly heat, sweat rash, or miliaria rubra. Although it can appear anywhere on the body, heat rash often appears around skin folds, including:
- in the neck
- near the groin
- under the arms
Heat rash occurs when excessive sweating blocks sweat pores. You’re most likely to get heat rash if you live in a hot, humid climate. Babies are particularly likely to get heat rash, especially if they’re overdressed.
Most of the time, heat rash isn’t serious and often goes away in cool temperatures. However, it can be very uncomfortable and can get worse if excessive sweating continues. Let’s take a look at several ways you can soothe heat rash at home.
How to treat heat rash
Your doctor may recommend several over-the-counter or prescription medications to treat heat rash.
A doctor may recommend you use ointments such as calamine lotion to treat the symptoms of heat rash. This lotion has a number of benefits for the skin, partly because it contains zinc oxide. It can help treat heat rash by soothing itchiness. Dab some calamine lotion onto your rash using a cotton pad. Reapply as needed. A range of calamine lotions is available for purchase online.
Over-the-counter antihistamines — whether topical or oral — can relieve the itching associated with heat rash. If you’re giving an antihistamine to a child, be sure to talk with your paediatrician or pharmacist about which types are best.
Hydrocortisone cream, a type of corticosteroid, may help relieve symptoms of heat rash. It’s available over the counter at any pharmacy and can be applied once or twice a day to soothe itching.
While you can use it short term on your baby’s skin, don’t apply it under the diaper. It could further irritate the skin.
Home remedies for heat rash
There are many home remedies for heat rash. Some soothe your skin or cool it down, while others reduce inflammation and itching while preventing infection. It’s important not to scratch your rash. Scratching can lead to more irritation and possibly an infection.
Cool baths and showers
Heat rash usually eases up after the skin is cooled down. Bathing in cool water can help with this. Washing the skin gently can also unclog the pores. This is crucial since clogged pores contribute to heat rash. Ensure that you dry your skin properly after bathing. Skin that’s left wet can become irritated.
Cold compresses are also great for soothing irritated skin. Face cloths soaked in cold water, or ice wrapped in a cloth, can reduce the pain and irritation associated with heat rash.
Oatmeal can be effective at reducing itching and inflammation. This makes it a useful home remedy for heat rash and several other skin conditions.
Put 1 or 2 cups of oatmeal in a lukewarm bath and soak for 20 minutes. Make sure the water isn’t hot, so you don’t further irritate your skin. You can also make a paste with oatmeal and water and apply it to your skin. Mix 1 part oatmeal to 1 part water, and mix until it forms a paste.
Research suggests sandalwood is an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, meaning it may reduce pain. Sandalwood powder mixed with a little water and applied to the rash can reduce the burning, painful sensation associated with heat rash.
Mix 2 parts sandalwood powder with 1 part water to make a pastelike substance. Before applying it to your rash, test it on a small patch of unbroken skin. If you don’t react after an hour, you should apply it to the rash without any further issues.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can soothe itchy skin. It’s also something most of us have in our pantry. This makes it a great home remedy for heat rash and other itchy skin conditions. Add 3 to 5 tablespoons of baking soda to a lukewarm bath and soak for about 20 minutes.
Aloe vera is an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic that can cool down the skin while preventing infections. This can help soothe swelling and pain. Use aloe vera gel directly on your heat rash to relieve the discomfort.
Unscented talcum powder
Talcum powder reduces sweat by absorbing perspiration. In turn, this ensures the pores aren’t blocked. Use unscented talcum powder, as scents might irritate your skin. Apply a little on sweat-prone areas like your underarms, backs of your knees, and inner thighs. Coat the skin and let it sit as if it were an antiperspirant deodorant.
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) has a range of claimed health benefits. According to anecdotal accounts, a lukewarm bath with a cup or two of Epsom salt may relieve itchiness. If you give a child an Epsom salt bath, make sure they don’t swallow any water. When consumed orally, Epsom salt is a laxative. In excess, it can cause diarrhea.
How long will it take to recover?
Provided there are no complications, your heat rash should disappear within a few days of starting home treatment. The rate it takes to disappear depends on how severe the rash was initially and whether you’re treating it effectively. If your rash worsens after a few days, you may need to speak to a healthcare provider.