Muscular man with white towel around neck happy after Canesten heat rash treatment

Find out more about sweat rash

Find out what a sweat rash is and its causes, and who are most at risk of suffering from the condition. Learn about the symptoms, treatment options and prevention methods of a sweat rash.

What is sweat rash?

A sweat rash (also known as intertrigo) can be itchy and painful, but it is not contagious. It is an inflammatory skin condition that causes a reddish rash to appear between the folds of your skin, areas of skin which rub together, and areas of skin where there is less air circulation.1

You will normally see it under your arms, in the crease of your neck, on the back of your knees, under your breasts, in the groin area and between abdominal skin folds.2 The area between your skin folds are warm and moist, which creates a welcome environment for skin fungus to grow.

A sweat rash is often accompanied by a fungal infection known as Candidiasis, which is caused by Candida yeast, as well as other types of fungi or bacteria.

What causes sweat rash?

The factors that can cause or worsen your skin inflammation include: moisture, heat, lack of air circulation and friction between skin folds. Additionally, sweat, urine and faeces can contribute to this condition.

Who is at risk at getting a sweat rash?

You are more likely to get a sweat rash if you:

  • are overweight,

  • have diabetes,

  • have a weakened immune system due to chemotherapy or HIV,

  • have a splint, brace or artificial limb,

  • are exposed to high heat and humidity,

  • use clothing and shoes that are too tight,

  • are confined to bed for a long period of time.3,4

Sweat rash is common during the dry season, and can affect you frequently if you play sports regularly. Infants often get this fungal infection because of their chubbiness, short necks and flexed posture. While adorable, those baby skin folds are ideal for moisture to collect, so it’s important to clean them regularly.5

Sweat rash symptoms

Intertrigo starts as a red rash or small bumps or spots in your skin folds. After that you can experience symptoms such as: 

  • red rash with scaling on the periphery,

  • stinging or burning sensation on the skin, 

  • broken skin (in the space between fingers or toes), 

  • blisters,

If it is not infected, the rash is usually symmetrical. It can appear on both sides of your skin folds, under both arms or both breasts. The reddish area can quickly become inflamed and raw. Your skin may start to crack, bleed, ooze, and crust over, and the surrounding area may become scaly.  

If a secondary infection develops, which can be caused by bacteria, fungus or yeast, the intertrigo will become more inflamed, and may develop a foul-smelling odour.6,7 

Female athlete with white towel around her neck holding water bottle and smiling, happy after Canesten sweat rash treatment

Sweat rash treatment

The treatment of intertrigo will depend on if it is just an inflammatory condition or if you also have an infection. If your skin is only showing the signs of inflammation (such as redness, itching or burning), you can use a cream that is anti-inflammatory. If you have a sweat rash that is accompanied by infection, you should treat it with a topical antifungal medication.8 

Canesten® cream contains Clotrimazole that is suitable to treat each fungal infection, depending on the severity of your symptoms:

Keep an infected area cool, clean and dry to avoid sweat rash.

You should see a doctor if your symptoms persist. You might also need to seek advice on how to lose weight if your condition is caused by obesity. For cases of bacterial infection, your doctor might prescribe an oral antibiotic.

If you are pregnant or elderly, antifungal medication might not be suitable for you. Your doctor can recommend an alternative treatment.9

Preventing sweat rash

You can try and lower the risk of getting intertrigo. These tips can help you:

  •  Keep your skin cool, dry and exposed to air.

  • Pat rather than rub your skin. Dry-rubbing may damage your skin and spread infection.

  • Always wash your hands after applying a treatment to avoid spreading infection.

  • Clean your skin gently, moisturise or apply a skin barrier protectant cream.

  • Use fragrance-free soaps and other skin products to minimise irritation.

  • Don’t wear tight clothing or shoes that can constrict the affected area. If your toes are affected, wear open-toe shoes.

  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes that may rub your skin and choose natural fabrics like cotton as compared to synthetic fibres like lycra and nylon, as the latter reduces the amount of air which reaches the skin.10,11

REFERENCES:

  1. Causes, in: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/ articles/intertrigo
  2. What causes intertrigo?, in: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/ articles/intertrigo
  3. History and Physical & Treatment and Management, in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books /NBK531489/
  4. Etiology and Predisposing Factors & Preventing Recurrent Infections, in: Kalra, M. et al. op. cit.
  5. Etiology & Epidemiology, in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ books/NBK531489/
  6. Clinical Manifestations, in: Kalra, M.: op. cit/
  7. Symptoms, in: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/ articles/intertrigo
  8. Treatment / Management, in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ books/NBK531489/
  9. History and Physical & Consultations, in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov /books/NBK531489/
  10. History and Physical & Treatment and Management, in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/ NBK531489/
  11. Preventing Recurrent Infections, in: Kalra, M. et al. op. cit.