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 red, 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 sweat pores become blocked from excessive sweating. 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. It often goes away on its own in cool temperatures. However, it can be very uncomfortable. It can get worse if excessive sweating continues.
Let’s take a look at several ways you can soothe heat rash at home.
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 to not 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 get irritated.
Fans and air conditioners
While your skin heals, avoid excessive sweating and humid air. Ventilation is important in letting your rash dry out and stay cool. Stay in an air-conditioned room, or use an air fan.
Light, moisture-wicking clothes
As your skin heals itself, it’s essential to avoid clothing that irritates your skin or makes you sweat more. Moisture-wicking clothing that’s light and loose-fitting can help your skin heal without irritating it.
Look for certain polyesters and other synthetic fabrics designed for fitness and sporting activities. These will be particularly suited for wicking moisture.
Cotton, while not a moisture-wicking fabric, is quite breathable. It might be comfortable to wear as well.
Ice packs or cold cloths
Cold compresses are 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.
Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the rash. Here’s more information about making your own cold compress.
Oatmeal is effective at reducing itching and inflammation. This makes it a useful home remedy for heat rash and a number of 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.
Try soothing colloidal oatmeal. Shop for it here.
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 to your pediatrician or pharmacist about which types are best.
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 have a reaction after an hour, you should be able to 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.
Neem (margosa) can be used on a number of skin rashes. Research has shown it has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. However, human studies are limited.
Neem powder can be combined with water to make a paste. This paste can be applied to the rash, left on for a few minutes, and washed off. Neem powder can also be added to a lukewarm bath.
Calamine 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.
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) has a range of claimed health benefits. A lukewarm bath with a cup or two of Epsom salt may relieve itchiness, according to anecdotal accounts.
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.
Hydrocortisone cream can be used to relieve 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.
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 gets worse after a few days, you may need to speak to a healthcare provider.
While there are a number of effective home remedies for heat rash, you might need a doctor’s guidance if any complications occur.
Take your child or baby to the doctor immediately if they have:
- sore throat
- muscle aches
- any other flu-like symptoms
Also contact your doctor if the rash doesn’t go away within a week of starting treatment.
If you seem to develop a rash after starting any new medication, also seek medical advice.
Consult your doctor if the rash seems infected. Symptoms of infected skin include:
- white or yellowish fluid
- increased pain
Flu-like symptoms might also accompany infected skin.
Since heat rash occurs when your body overheats and sweats, you can prevent heat rashes by staying cool.
To prevent heat rashes, take the following precautions on hot days:
- Stay in air-conditioned, cool areas.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don’t wear excessive layers of clothing.
- Avoid too much physical exertion.
- Take cool showers or baths.
Parents should ensure that children and babies stay cool, hydrated, and dressed comfortably. Generally, experts advise that children should only wear one more layer of clothing than adults.
Be sure you’re changing your baby’s diaper frequently, too. Wetness can contribute to heat rash.
Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link above.