Sweat pimples, or sweat bumps, are a common occurrence on sunny summer days for some people. They can appear in the sweaty folds and creases of skin where friction is common. Also called miliaria, heat bumps, or heat rashes, they occur when sweat glands become blocked and trap perspiration inside your skin.
Normally, when you sweat, the liquid comes to the surface of your skin to evaporate. When it’s unable to escape, it can appear as a red rash, like pimples or little sweat bubbles under the skin.
The area can become inflamed and cause discomfort and itchiness. Heat pimples, or acne mechanica, may also erupt in among those with acne-prone skin.
Thankfully, most cases of heat rash can be cleared up relatively easily by moving to cooler settings, or through home remedies.
Types of Sweat Pimples or Bumps
There are different types of heat rashes that fall under the miliaria condition. Each has its own set of symptoms, but all are the result of obstructed sweat glands that prevent sweat from reaching the skin’s surface.
The three types of heat rash in adults correspond to the depth of blocked sweat glands:
Miliaria crystallina: These are little non-inflamed white marks that can appear on the surface of the skin. They are essentially little sweat bubbles that easily rupture when rubbed.
Miliaria rubra (also called prickly heat): When trapped sweat moves into deeper, living layers of the epidermis and upper dermis, these tiny sweat pimples form. They look like pimples and can result in a spreading rash that triggers inflammation and redness. They will usually dissipate in cooler temperatures.
Miliaria profunda: In this form, retained sweat will leak out of sweat ducts into the dermis. It looks like goosebumps and can occur during exposure to intense heat. It is uncommon, yet likely a chronic or recurring condition of acne in summer or heat.
Symptoms of Sweat Pimples or Bumps in Adults
The symptoms of a heat or sweat rash include:
- Small, red spots
- Itchy, prickly feeling
- Mild swelling
- Rash appearing anywhere on the body
- Rash that spreads (on the body, not between individuals)
- Tiny blisters that resemble sweat beads
- Larger, hardened bumps (profunda)
- Noticeable rash after exercise
- Lack of sweat on a hot day
Your symptoms of heat rash—such as whether it appears as pimples or hardened goosebumps—will depend on the type of heat rash you have. For the most part, they have similar treatment and prevention techniques.
What Causes Sweat or Heat Bumps?
A number of issues contribute to sweat pimples or rash, and all relate to high temperatures, the friction of objects against skin, and blocked pores.
Some reasons why you have sweat bumps or pimples can include:
- Excessive sweating
- Not exfoliating (dead skin cells and other debris can block sweat glands)
- Wearing tight clothing that doesn’t allow skin to breathe
- Wearing polyester or synthetic clothing (especially to work out in)
- Spending time in warm and humid temperatures
- Having skin pressed against an object—as when sitting in a chair, on the bed, or on a sofa—when it’s hot
- Applying thick lotions and creams
- Obesity (skin folds, crevices trap sweat and prevent air circulation, promoting heat rash)
- Prolonged bed rest
- Not having air conditioning or other forms of relief from heat
- Side effects of medications like clonidine
Who Is at Risk of Developing Sweat Pimples?
Although anybody can experience sweat bumps or rash, some groups are more susceptible than others. These include:
- Babies (due to their immature sweat glands)
- Adults with a fever—particularly if bedridden
- Those often exposed to tropical, hot and humid temperatures
- People who wear tight and/or synthetic clothing
- Individuals who exercise—particularly in tight, synthetic clothes (and those who sweat a lot or exercise outdoors in warm/hot/humid temperatures)
- Obese people
- Sedentary individuals
- Immobile people who cannot expose skin to air for extended periods
- People who don’t practice good hygiene
- Persons who sweat heavily
If you’re asking, “Is heat rash contagious?” the answer is no. You don’t have to worry about contracting the condition from a surface or another individual.
How to Treat Sweat Bumps
How you treat skin bumps will ultimately depend on why they’ve appeared. It could be as simple as eating an ice cream cone or turning on an air conditioner.
Other ideas for how to get rid of sweat bumps include:
- Keeping skin cool
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Taking cool baths or showers when needed, maybe twice daily
- Using lightweight sheets/bedding
- Moving around regularly
- Drinking fluids
- Avoiding synthetic clothing and opting for cotton garments
- Exfoliating skin
How long does sweat rash last? In adults, it usually goes away within a couple of hours to a couple of days. The above tips demonstrate how you can get rid of heat rash quickly.
Home Remedies for Sweat Bumps
If exposure to cool air, drinking a cold beverage, or removing restrictive clothing doesn’t work, or if it doesn’t remedy the situation fast enough for your liking, here are some home remedies that can help:
1. Ice: Taking a handful of ice cubes, wrapping them in a cotton cloth, and applying to the affected area can reduce itchiness and bring the temperature down. Apply the cold compress until the area is numb. Then pat dry.
2. Extra-virgin olive oil: You can get rid of heat bumps with an olive oil and turmeric mixture. Mix one tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of turmeric into a paste and apply to the affected area. Leave it for 20 to 30 minutes and pat dry with a clean towel. This can be done two to three times per day.
3. Aloe vera: If you’re wondering how to get rid of heat bumps on your face, aloe vera might be a soothing option. Apply two tablespoons of gel or extract to the affected area before bed and leave on overnight. Rinse and pat dry in the morning.
4. Castor oil: Mixing one tablespoon of castor oil with a teaspoon of sandalwood can help with heat rash. Keep it on for 30 minutes before rinsing off with cool water. It’s important to use oil treatments with care because they can clog pores, so make sure to wash afterward.
5. Cucumber: Blend half a cucumber into a paste that can be applied to the skin for some soothing relief. Let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing with cool water and patting dry.
6. Oatmeal: Grinding a cup of oatmeal into a powder and pouring it into lukewarm bath water can help. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes before patting dry.
7. Baking soda: Add one half cup of this pantry staple to a lukewarm bath and soak for 20 minutes. Pat dry.
8. Sandalwood: Sandalwood can help keep your skin cool to both prevent and treat heat rash. Mix it with equal parts water to apply to the affected area to treat a rash. Use it twice daily.
9. Topical antibacterial creams: Topical antibacterial creams and soaps may help to relieve and shorten symptoms.
10. Anti-itch products: Calamine for heat rash, menthol, and camphor-based products can all help with itch. If they are oily, be sure to wash them off so they don’t further clog pores.
How to Prevent Heat Bumps
Preventing heat bumps is possible by making minor tweaks to your day. For some, it may involve maintaining good hygiene or exfoliating more regularly, whereas for others, it may include making an effort to move around more often, wearing looser clothing, or buying an air conditioner.
Some of the easiest ways to prevent sweat pimples or bumps include:
- Showering after exercise or episodes of profuse sweating
- Drinking lots of water
- Wearing loose, breathable clothing
- Avoiding synthetic materials
- Maintaining a comfortable room temperature
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Handling heat rash
If you notice what appears to be outbreaks of acne in summer and wonder if you can get pimples from sweating or if pimples are caused by heat, they can be. If sweat rashes aren’t treated, harmful bacteria can seep into the pores and produce pus-filled bumps called miliaria pustulosa.
Sweat pimples and bumps will usually go away pretty quickly—provided they are, in fact, due to heat and friction—and are not much to worry about.
So, remember to stay cool in intensely hot and humid environments, keep your skin clean and dry, and enjoy a rash-free summer with these tips on how to get rid of heat rash quickly.
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