What Causes Sweat Bumps?

Heat bumps occur in the most embarassing places.
Heat bumps occur in the most embarassing places. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The hot summer months can cause stingy, itchy little red bumps to form in all those places you can’t scratch in public. Though the condition--commonly known as sweat bumps--is not bad enough to go to the doctor, it could get worse if not treated properly and in a timely manner.

What It Is

All those little blisters and bumps with red skin around them are called many things: miliaria, sweat bumps, heat rash and so on. In the South, the condition is called “prickly heat rash.” It starts as a minor nuisance, but can escalate to pure torment. Babies are very prone to it, and a baby who has prickly heat can make everybody within earshot wish he didn’t.

Why It Happens

Any of your 4 million sweat glands can get backed up and inflamed if they get plugged up by dead skin cells plug, dried skin oil or anything you put on your skin. This can turn into a bump, a blister or even a boil if it gets infected.

Maintain Your Cool

Heat is the cause of this affliction, so whatever you can do to remain cool, calm and collected and stop sweating will help keep it from getting worse. Find some air conditioning, sit in the shade and drink some water. Try real hard not to scratch. Take an oatmeal bath or a cool shower, even an air bath, sitting naked under a fan. Keeping every inch of skin as clean and dry as possible is very important, so don’t put on any cream, lotion or moisturizer, especially if it contains deodorant. Keep those pores clear. If you absolutely have to get dressed, wear something loose and made of cotton, especially your undies. Before you do, though, dust all creases and folds with baby powder, talcum or even corn starch from the pantry. Go through this routine at least twice a day, morning and evening, and as often in between as you can.

Stop the Itch

If you’re still itching, apply an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel to the itchy areas for five to 10 minutes and repeat every four to six hours. Aloe vera works well, if you happen to have a plant around. Cut off a leaf, split it and apply the clear goo from the flesh to the itches and allow it to dry. As a last resort, use store-bought hydrocortisone cream. See a doctor if you can’t get your heat bumps to clear up with home remedies.

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