What is prickly heat?

Prickly heat is the heat rash you sometimes see on your body. It is medically called miliaria rubra. It appears like a red, warm, stinging or prickly feeling rash. It shows up as red, small bumps and dots on the affected area. It may later turn into raised bumps and blisters too.

Prickly heat is caused when the body is exposed to extremely warm temperatures. This is not a disease and only shows the sensitivity of the body. Prickly heat doesn’t need a treatment and usually goes away on its own, after a few days. However, there are few treatments that may help to reduce the symptoms. You may also need to consult a doctor in certain situations.

The most common areas where prickly heat shows up are face, neck, shoulders, and chest. Though it can attack anyone children are usually more likely to catch it.

Symptoms of prickly heat

One can easily identify prickly heat due to obvious symptoms. It looks like tiny red bumps on the area that is exposed to the sun. When it is hot, humid and the skins sweat, it causes heat rash.

Red bumps are not always the case, for some people, it shows up like tiny blisters. It may swell, irritate, itch or redden as the rash develops with time. To your surprise, this prickly heat can spread to the whole body. But it is not infectious or contagious. There is no way that one can transfer this to other people.

What triggers a heat rash?

Prickly heat or heat rash is caused by trapped sweat in the skin. It means that when the body is around hot temperature, it automatically activates its sweat glands to make sweat on the skin. Once produced, then this sweat then cools and evaporates.

During this warm state, the sweat production can overflow the sweat glands. It makes the sweat glands clogged and the sweat is trapped inside the deep layers of the skin. Then it irritates the skin and causes a reddish skin rash.

The most common trigger for prickly heat is exposed to heat for a prolonged duration. For wet and humid areas, it is true because the sweat takes so much time to evaporate from the skin.

People who come from a cooler climate to a relatively warmer climate, prickly heat is the most common. But it may also occur living in the same climate when it gets hotter in summer.

Certain medications can also trigger prickly heat. Any drugs that raise the body temperature or alter the function of the sweat glands can increase the risk of prickly heat.

There are some medicines that may also trigger prickly heat. For example, the common medicines for Parkinson’s disease block the sweat and change the fluid balance in the body. It results in the appearance of red rashes on the skin.

The evidence collected from research also indicates that prickly heat only develops on the skin patch where Staphylococcus bacteria are highly prevalent. (Click here to read a research on it)

Staphylococcus bacteria are normally found on human skin. Sometimes the biofilm that they produce can block the sweat glands of the body. It causes multiple skin problems including heat rash. It suggests that people with more Staphylococcus on their skin are at a high risk of prickly heat than others.

Treatment for prickly heat

There is no such requirement for treating prickly heat. It goes away on its own. But if a person develops bothersome symptoms, it is the time to try certain remedies on it. usually, a calamine lotion or topical steroid creams can help to treat the redness, irritation, and inflammation.

The treatment of prickly heat also includes avoiding excessive sweating. It means you should necessarily cool off your skin. For that, sitting in front of a fan or air conditioner may help you. Taking a cold shower or bath can also reduce your body temperature and help to treat heat rash. Try using products that have camphor and methanol in them. It will have a cooling effect on the skin and reduce the itchiness.

In extreme cases of itchiness, antihistamine medicines can also help. People who are prone to heat rash find regular cleaning the body may provide a relief.

Who is at risk of prickly heat?

Prickly heat can hit any person. But it is more common in children and infants. The reason is that in developing age, the sweat glands are less resilient. That’s why they are more likely to clog when there is excessive sweating. Unlike an adult body, the child’s body can not easily adjust its body temperature.

In infants, prickly heat can appear on the neck, face and groin area. It is more uncomfortable and irritating for them. Usually, this prickly heat goes away without any medicine. But a cool bath provides the infant an instant relief and cooling effect.

When there are prickly heat rashes all over the body, the parents should avoid using oil-based products or body oil in children and toddlers. It will reduce the risk of clogging sweat glands.

Is there a way to prevent prickly heat?

The only way to prevent prickly heat is by preventing the unnecessary sweat. The sweat trapped in the skin should be reduced to avoid causing a rash. Additionally, stop using the skin product that clogs your skin pores. These products include heavy oils, petroleum jelly or heavy moisturizing lotions.

Try wearing loses fitted clothes that are made of natural fibers. You can wear linen, cotton, hemp or related stuff. All of these aid in reducing the amount of sweat that gets trapped on the skin.

After an intense physical activity like exercise, remove your sweaty clothes. Change your clothes every day on warm days. Take a cold shower to get rid of the sweat and change your clothes.

Do not stay for long in outdoors. Avoid the prolonged exposure to heat or sun as it may cause the symptoms of prickly heat. Regular showering and taking care of personal hygiene reduces the chances of getting any skin infection.

Once you get prickly heat rash, try using special products available for it. all such products are available over the counter.

When to see a doctor?

Prickly heat is not a disease that requires a doctor’s checkup. It is a common skin condition that usually heals without any medical treatment. If you follow the prevention steps, managing prickly heat becomes even easier.

Once you get prickly heat, try following the steps that lower the body’s temperature/ additionally prevent your body to produces more sweat. Watch out for more symptoms, if they show up, it is a serious concern that needs medical attention.

If the symptoms of prickly heat remain for too long or your rash seems like infected, it is the time to see a doctor. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a dermatologist if they suspect an underlying condition.


Michelle M

Conducting research in a laboratory can often feel isolated so Lisa prefers writing about scientific research in healthcare. She contributes stories about the latest research in all fields related to health. Email: lisa@askhealthnews.com

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