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Summer skin rashes

8-minute read

If you suspect that you or someone is having heat stroke or an anaphylactic shock, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance

Key facts

  • In Australia, many people experience rashes in the warmer months.
  • Rashes can be caused by heat, sun, allergies, bites or stings, or chronic conditions that worsen in the heat.
  • Rashes can also appear for serious events such as anaphylaxis or heat stroke, which are medical emergencies.

During summer, many Australians participate in outdoor activities. Many people also get rashes. These rashes can be caused by:

Allergies and pre-existing skin conditions can also get worse during summer.

Babies are especially prone to skin rashes because their skin is often more sensitive.

Types of summer rash

There are several different types of skin rashes; here are some that are more likely to happen during summer.

Heat rash or prickly heat

Heat rash or prickly heat is caused by a blockage and inflammation of your sweat ducts. This can be made worse by heat and high humidity. Heat rash can cause:

  • tiny bumps, blisters, or red spots
  • an irritating itch and prickling sensation
  • redness and mild swelling of the affected area

Heat rash usually forms in places where sweat collects, such as:

  • your armpits
  • your back
  • under your breasts
  • your chest
  • your neck
  • your groin
  • crooks of your elbows and knees
  • your waist

It’s important to know what you can do to cope in hot weather. Read more about what to do in hot weather.

Sun rash

Some people have skin that develops a rash when exposed to direct sunlight. This is also called photosensitivity. There are many different types of sun rash.

Some people may experience sun rash while taking certain medicines such as antibiotics. Or the rash may happen when exposed to some:

  • chemicals
  • fragrances
  • dyes
  • disinfectants
  • sunscreens

This is called photodermatitis.

In some people, exposure to the sun in spring or early summer can trigger an itchy, red rash on the:

  • front of their neck
  • chest
  • arms
  • face

This rash is called polymorphous light eruption (PMLE). It usually clears without treatment in a few days. Although it can come back.

Sunlight can also trigger a rare condition called lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE) in susceptible people.

You can read more about sun safety here

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Skin allergies

Spring and summer are times when there are many substances that can cause allergic skin reactions in the environment — moulds, pollens, plant and animal substances.

Some skin allergies can be caused by heat or sweat, such as:

Rashes from bites and stings

Bites and stings usually cause pain, itching and slight swelling. In some people they can cause a severe skin reaction.

If they are allergic to stings they may have a severe allergic reaction. This is called anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency, causing symptoms such as:

  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the lips, tongue, face and throat
  • coughing and wheezing
  • dizziness

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if you (or a person you are with) get symptoms such as dizziness, difficulty breathing, swelling or tightness in the throat or a rapid pulse.

Chronic skin conditions

Many people with chronic skin conditions may find their symptoms worsen during summer. You should see your doctor if you have an ongoing skin problem that gets worse in heat and sunlight. Examples of chronic skin conditions are:

Self-care and treatments

Most summer skin rashes aren’t harmful and will disappear by themselves after a few days. Most rashes can be safely and effectively treated at home. Try one or more of these measures:

  • Wear light, loose-fitting, soft clothes that don’t trap heat and moisture, and cause less friction. Natural fabrics such as cotton are best.
  • Spend time in cool, air-conditioned or well-ventilated environments. Use a fan if necessary.
  • Take cool baths or showers often.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any creams or tablets that may help you.
  • Don’t scratch the affected area, as it may make it worse.

It’s also important to drink plenty of water in hot weather and ensure to limit your exposure to the sun.

When should I see my doctor?

See your doctor if your rash doesn't improve by itself or seems to be getting worse.

You should see your doctor or call triple zero (000) if your rash is associated with:

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What should I do in an emergency?


It is normal for bee and wasp stings to cause a minor rash. However, in some people with allergies, stings can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency.

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if you (or a person you are with) get symptoms such as dizziness, difficulty breathing, swelling or tightness in the throat or a rapid pulse.

If someone knows that they have a severe allergy, they may have a 'personal action plan'. If they are having an anaphylactic reaction, they may need help following their plan. This may include administering adrenaline to the person via an autoinjector (such as an EpiPen®) if one is available.

The St John Ambulance Australia first aid fact sheet for anaphylaxis can be found on their website.

Learn more about setting up a personal action plan for someone with anaphylaxis.

You can read more about anaphylaxis in the articles on healthdirect’s and bites and stings section.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion

Heat rash may also be an early warning of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Call triple zero (000) immediately if you (or a person you are with) get symptoms of heat stroke.

  • a sudden rise in body temperature
  • red, hot dry skin (because sweating has stopped)
  • dry swollen tongue
  • rapid pulse
  • rapid shallow breathing
  • being very thirsty
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • poor coordination or slurred speech
  • aggressive or bizarre behaviour
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures
  • coma

Resources and support

There are a number of resources and services available if you want to learn more about summer rashes. You can:

  • speak with your doctor or pharmacist
  • call the Poisons Information Centre telephone advice line on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2022

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