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Heat rash

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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Heat rash gives a prickly itchy feeling, and a rash that looks like small red raised spots – although more flesh-colored than red in darker skin. It can occur anywhere on the body. It's a harmless rash that can improve on its own after a few days.

What causes heat rash?

Heat rash is unsurprisingly caused by excess heat. In situations where the temperature is raised, excessive sweating causes the sweat glands to trap sweat and become blocked, which then leads to a rash reaction. It cannot be passed from one person to another. Babies, especially newborns, are not good at controlling their temperature, so they can get heat rash more often.

How can I help myself?

The best thing to do is to keep your skin cool. This can be done by avoiding too many clothing layers and ensuring the surrounding environment is cool. Loose cotton clothing and lightweight bedding is advised, as well as drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and taking cool baths or showers.

If you experience itching, you should keep your nails short, pat the skin instead of rubbing and try placing an ice pack wrapped in cloth, or something else cool, on the skin for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

A pharmacist might recommend creams or lotions with anti-itching components like calamine lotion. They may recommend antihistamine liquid or tablets to reduce the sensation of itch. If the rashes are red and inflamed, a small amount of hydrocortisone cream for children over 10 years old and non-pregnant adults can be tried.

When compared to newer antihistamines such as loratadine or cetirizine, older antihistamines such as chlorpheniramine or diphenhydramine are particularly helpful for skin reactions or rashes. They improve symptoms often within a few hours.

Some people find it a disadvantage that they can cause drowsiness, although if the rash is bothersome at night, this may be desirable. They also require more frequent doses throughout the day.

Cetirizine is an effective all-around antihistamine with wide symptom coverage and a once-daily dose that is less prone to causing drowsiness.

When should I see my doctor?

If the rash is not improving with those home methods after a few days or you or your child are having more worrisome symptoms, you should contact your doctor for further review. Your doctor can offer a diagnosis if you are unsure that your rash is a heat rash.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
EmailFacebookPinterestTwitter
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