Avoiding Prickly Heat

Published: April 6, 2016

Prickly Heat (Miliaria Rubra,) is the term used to define a particular rash that develops in response to extreme sweating accompanied by blocked sweat glands. The most common groups to suffer from prickly heat are babies and children whose sweat glands have not fully developed all the way. The rash is characteristically itchy and produces clusters of small, raised red bumps that can look like blisters, and cause a sensation of prickling or stinging. The areas of the body most likely to become host to this rash are ones that are covered by clothing, and where skin to skin contact is found, like the armpits and the groin. Other common sites can be the abdomen, thighs, neck, upper chest and back. Anyone can get prickly heat, and at any time of year–including the winter.

Typical Duration
In most cases, the condition will usually clear up on its own within a few days, however, caution must be exercised to monitor this heat rash, as it can interfere with the self-regulating system of the body. If undetected, this could lead to heat exhaustion. Heatstroke, when the body cannot manage to cool itself, falls into the category of being a life-threatening emergency, requiring prompt, medical attention. In treating the less severe cases, you can use Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to ease the symptoms.

How and What
The setup for developing prickly heat rash occurs with excessive perspiration, typically exacerbated in a hot and humid environment. When the pores of the skin covering the sweat glands become blocked, a barrier is formed that traps the sweat beneath the skin. Dead skin cells and bacteria not effectively removed are the leading cause. As sweating increases, it builds up under the skin and produces the rash of heat bumps. In most cases, the bumps will burst on their own, then releasing the trapped sweat, and as they do, there may be a prickly, sting felt–and thus the name. The rash can produce a burning sensation, which is no cause for alarm. The time to seek medical attention is if the rash does not go away on its own in a few days, if you are unable to sufficiently cool down, or if the rash is accompanied by or followed by an infection.

Prevention is the Best Treatment
Prickly Heat occurs a few days after exposure to causes, so avoiding catalysts is key. Because this condition is an inappropriate bodily response to sweating, care should be taken to avoid exposure anything that would generate prolonged periods of excessive sweating.

  • When There’s no AC: When in an environment without air conditioning, make sure to use fans.
  • Shower Cool-off: Whenever possible, frequent the shower for quick, cooling-down, or keep some ice and water in an atomizer and mist your face, neck and anywhere possible to keep cool.
  • Watch the Emollients: Ingredients in many lotions and moisturizers can clog pores. Look for non-comedogenic brands, and stay away from any products containing oils.
  • Dress for the Temps: Stick to lightweight clothing that’s blousy and airy, and not tight-fitting. Natural fibers, like cotton and linen are best.
  • Too Close for Comfort: Stay a reasonable distance away from heat sources, like a heater or fire, and when bedridden, take steps to stay cool, all over.
  • Keep a Check on Your Weight: Being obese can definitely contribute to prickly heat.
  • Botox: Extremely diluted botox injections are now being injected superficially with great results to prevent this condition. Gel topical Botox applications are nearing becoming available for prickly heat rash prevention, too.
  • Iontophoresis: Hands and feet are placed in a salt solution charged by a very low current, initially for several times a week and later on a less frequent, maintenance basis.
  • Future Preventatives: include ultrasound and radiofrequency performed with microneedles to debilitate the sweat glands altogether.

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