When your skin has been prickled by the heat, the first order of business is to cool down. For the next few days, spend as much time as you can in the cold comfort of an air-conditioned environment. Take a cool bath or shower. Have your favorite someone fan you with an ostrich feather. And while you’re waiting for your skin to chill, try these other remedies.
The itchy red bumps dotting your neck, armpits, chest, and groin are caused by sweat with nowhere to go. Normally, perspiration evaporates, which cools your skin. But sweat trapped by fabric can’t escape. The skin swells, blocks the sweat pores, and perspiration leaks into the skin, which erupts into that bumpy rash. As the bumps burst, releasing their sweat, you may feel the stinging sensation that gives heat rash its other name: prickly heat. Hot, humid weather; sweat; and constricting clothes are a recipe for heat rash. So is skin rubbing against skin, which is common in heavy folks or women with large breasts.
Pack It With Ice
Anything that cools the temperature of your skin will reduce the itching and swelling. So if you don’t have time for a bath, put an ice pack or a cool compress on the rash for 10 minutes every 4 to 6 hours.
Add the Magic Powder
Sometimes it seems as if baking soda is good for just about anything, and it’s certainly good for relieving heat rash. Soak in a tub to which you’ve added a few tablespoons of the powder. It will ease the itching and make you feel more comfortable while the rash heals. You can also add fine-ground oatmeal, which is sold under brand names such as Aveeno.
Apply baking soda or cornstarch directly to the rash site to absorb moisture and sweat. This is an age-old approach, recommended by many country grandmothers. Some say cornstarch is better because it is softer on the skin. Reapply every few hours, rinsing and drying the skin beforehand.
Slather to Soothe
- The sticky gel of the aloe vera leaf has long been used to relieve itching and promote healing.Apply the gel to the affected skin two or three times a day, washing the skin before each application.
- Apply calamine lotion. A traditional home remedy for poison ivy, the pink stuff can also ease the itching and irritation of heat rash.
Get Out in the Air
If blisters accompany the rash, don’t cover them up. Fresh air will speed their healing.
Should I Call the Doctor?
Simple heat rash is irritating but hardly serious; the itch and inflammation should clear up in a day or two. But call your doctor if the rash doesn’t go away within a few days, or if the bumps become infected. You may need medication. Also seek emergency assistance if nausea, dryness, thirst, headache, and paleness accompany the rash. In severe forms, heat rash can interfere with the body’s temperature-regulating mechanism and cause fever.
The Power of Prevention
- Limit your physical activity in extremely hot and humid weather. (The threat of heat rash is a great excuse to avoid a workout.) And take as many cold showers or baths as needed to cool yourself.
- Wear loose cotton clothing. It’s more likely to keep your skin dry, making heat rash less likely to plague your tender skin. Avoid nylon and polyester fabrics and tight clothing in general, especially during the summer months.
- Avoid oily, greasy sunscreens, or formulations that contain cocoa butter. Choose a less greasy lotion that’s hypoallergenic and blocks both UVA and UVB light.
- At the beach, perch under an umbrella. Your spot in the shade will be significantly cooler than a seat in the sun.
- If you could stand to lose a few pounds, do. Overweight people tend to sweat more and generate more body heat, making a rash more likely to erupt.
Increase your intake of essential fatty acids by eating more salmon, other cold-water fish, and flaxseed oil. These healthy fats help curtail inflammation in the body, making you less susceptible to rashes.