How to Identify & Treat Heat Rash

With warmer weather upon us, you’re probably itching to get outside. We don’t blame you. But, to prevent injury or illness, it’s important you take precautions to protect yourself and your family.

Time spent outdoors can lead to ailments like sunburn, dehydration heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and allergy exacerbations. Hot and humid weather also makes you more susceptible to heat rashes, especially if you’re playing sports or engaged in an intense physical activity that makes you sweat. 

How can you be sure your rash is in fact a heat rash? And, if it is, what’s the fastest way to get rid of it? Let’s take a look.

What Does Heat Rash Look Like?

Given that your skin is the largest organ in your body, it’s not surprising that many different skin rashes exist. Heat rashes (also known as miliaria) are one of the most common types of rashes, affecting both children and adults.

Heat rash on a man's back


They form when your sweat glands become clogged and can’t expel sweat, thus trapping perspiration under your skin. Heat rashes usually appear in skin folds or areas where clothes cause friction. For children, this is often in the neck, shoulders or chest areas, whereas adults more typically develop heat rashes in the armpits, elbow creases and groin.

Regardless of the weather outside, babies, in particular, are prone to heat rashes since their sweat ducts aren’t fully developed.

Heat rash on a baby's leg


4 Types or Stages of Heat Rash

If you’re looking for a sure sign of how to identify a heat rash, unfortunately, there isn’t one. That’s because there are different types of heat rashes, which range in severity from superficial blisters to deep, red lesions.

To determine what type of rash you might have, be on the look out for the following heat rash signs and symptoms.

  1. Miliaria crystallina is the mildest form of heat rash and affects the sweat ducts on the epidermis, or top layer of skin. If you have miliaria crystallina, you’ll notice small clear or white bumps filled with fluid that can easily break. Despite popular belief, this type of heat rash doesn’t itch and shouldn’t cause discomfort. It’s also most common in babies.
  2. (or “prickly heat” rash) is known to be more painful than miliaria crystallina because it occurs deeper within the epidermis. This type of heat rash causes red bumps, an itchy or prickly sensation and a decreased amount of sweat in the affected area. It can also result in inflammation and soreness of the skin since the body can’t release sweat through the skin’s surface. It’s more common in adults than babies and children.
  3. Miliaria pustulosa is similar to miliaria rubra, except the red bumps associated with the heat rash fill with pus, forming lesions and causing them to become inflamed and pustular, or pus-filled.
  4. is the least common form of heat rash and affects the dermis, or a deeper layer of skin below the epidermis. Sweat from your sweat glands is retained in your skin, forming larger, flesh-colored bumps. This type of heat rash usually occurs in adults after a long period of physical activity and can reoccur or become chronic.  

What Heat Rash Remedies Are Helpful?

The best way to get rid of a heat rash quickly is to ensure the affected area is kept cool and dry. Avoiding exposure to the heat that caused your rash can expedite healing as well.

It is important to note that taking a warm or hot shower will make the symptoms worse!

If you’re experiencing prickliness or itching, heat rash creams like calamine lotion can help relieve discomfort and prevent complications.

Other homeopathic substances, including colloidal oatmeal, sandalwood powder, baking soda, aloe vera, and epsom salt, can also soothe itchiness.

For more serious instances of inflammation, your healthcare provider might prescribe a topical steroid for heat rash treatment.

To prevent a heat rash from occurring in the first place, stick to more breathable clothing made from cotton and moisture-wicking fabrics. When the weather is hot and humid, stay in the shade or air conditioning and keep your sleeping area cool and well ventilated. Plus, avoid ointments and lotions that can clog your pores.

When to See a Medical Professional

In most cases, heat rashes will clear up on their own within a few days. However, you should see your doctor if your rash or your child’s rash gets worse, or you notice signs of infection. This can include:

  • Increased swelling, pain, redness, or warmth around the affected area
  • Golden yellow crust formation or pus draining from lesions
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Fever or chills

Not sure if your skin irritation is a heat rash or something more serious? Save your spot online or just walk into the GoHealth Urgent Care center that’s most convenient for you. Use the dropdown menu below to locate a center nearby.