What is prickly heat ?

Your-Health-Online Back-to-Directory A health article about Prickly heat from Your Health Online the A to Z directory of dealing with Health Problems & nutritional Self Care Strategies

Prickly heat is a very itchy red skin rash, causing a prickling or burning feeling. It is medically known as miliaria. It may occur when you sweat a lot in hot or humid weather.

Dead skin cells and bacteria block the sweat glands. The skin becomes inflamed with a spotty rash that may blister.

These signs usually start around the neck. If it is bad, it can spread down onto the chest and back and up around the ears and face, but it seldom bothers a baby.

pricklyMost forms of prickly heat do not need any treatment. The rash goes away eventually. It is more important to try to keep the baby cool.

Don't be afraid to take off the baby's clothes in hot weather.

After all, there's no evidence that early experiences with nakedness lead to children growing up to be nudists. The rash usually lasts for a few days and then disappears on its own.

Although it may last longer if the hot and humid conditions continue.

Signs & Symptoms of Prickly heat

Signs of Milaria include small red rashes, called papules, occur at a number of areas on a sufferer's body, the most common including the face, neck, under the breasts and under the scrotum.

Other areas include skin folds, areas of the body that may rub against clothing, such as the back, chest, and stomach, etc.

A related and sometimes simultaneous condition is folliculitis, where hair follicles become plugged with foreign matter, resulting in inflammation.

• Small, itchy red bumps on the skin

• Prickly, stinging or burning sensation in the affected area

In the most severe forms, salt crystals may form in the sweat-gland ducts, producing small blisters.

Types of Prickly heat / Miliaria

There are a few various types of Prickly heat / miliaria that range from mild to severe;

Miliaria crystalline -

Also known as sudamina this is the mildest form of prickly heat and is caused by a blockage of the sweat glands that are close to the surface of your skin. Visually you can see that it is characterized by tiny, clear papules that rupture easily.

Miliaria rubra

This is the most common form of malaria, that is commonly known as Prickly Heat. You can see the skin covered by red papules, itching and experience a sensation of pins & needles on the skin.

Miliaria profunda

This is the least common type, but it is the most severe form of miliaria in which the sweat leaks into the deeper layers of the dermoepidermal junction.

Miliaria pustulosa

This is a complication of miliaria rubra, where the skin papules become infected and from there begin to form pus filled pimples (pustules).

What Causes Prickly heat?

Prickly heat is due the sweat glands becoming blocked when the weather is hot and humid.

Dead skin cells and bacteria may block the sweat glands, leading to sweat being retained and building up on the skin leading to inflammation, which causes the rash.

It is caused by sweat glands becoming blocked and inflamed due to excessive sweating. This in turn causes the sweat to leak into the deeper layers of the epidermis.

Learn more here on our page about the causes and effects of excessive sweating.

Risk Factors:

Prickly heat is more common in the summer months.

People of any age can become affected although it is more common in children and especially infants due to their under-developed sweat glands.

The symptoms relating to miliaria should not be confused with shingles as they can be very similar. Shingles will restrict itself to one side of the body but also has a rash-like appearance.

It is also accompanied by a prickling sensation and pain throughout the region. Those who suspect they have shingles and not miliaria should seek medical advice immediately as the sooner antivirals are taken, the better.


Prickly heat can be simply prevented by avoiding any activities that would induce excessing sweating, making full use of air conditioning to cool your environment, only wearing light clothing and in general making sure to avoid hot and humid weather conditions. Frequent cool showers or cool baths with mild soap can help to prevent heat rash.

~ Avoid overdressing.

~ Wear loose cotton clothing to encourage the evaporation of sweat and prevent further skin irritation.

~ Keep baths and showers cool• Leave a babies nappy off as often as possible.

~ Keep rooms cool (air conditioning will help).

~ Avoid heavy moisturizers. Tender newborn skin tends to be dry and in need of moisturizing.

But heavy, oil-based creams can be a problem. Moisturize with a light, water-based lotion instead.

When to seek Medical Advice:

pricklyIn cases where the rash has developed into open blisters or pustular lesions a doctor should be consulted since more aggressive, medically monitored treatment may be required.

Heat rash happens when the pores around your sweat glands become blocked.

As a result, sweat becomes trapped under your skin, causing fine red spots or bumps that are on your upper back, chest or arms.

This happens a lot to babies and young children.

There is a small risk of heat exhaustion due to inability to sweat if the rash affects a large proportion of the body's surface area or the sufferer continues to engage in heat-producing activity.

Very rarely, a prickly heat rash from excessive sweating can be dangerous.

Call your doctor if any of the following occur along with the sweating:


Weight loss

Chest pain

Shortness of breath

Rapid pounding heartbeat


Normally, a common simple case of Miliaria / Prickly heat will be self limiting and will usually resolve itself in as little time as 24-48 hours. However, severe cases can last for a number of weeks and cause significant disability.

General measures should be recommended for all patients, including moving to an air-conditioned environment if possible, avoiding sweat-provoking activities and occlusive clothing, and taking frequent cool showers.

It has been suggested that the use of topical antibacterials (including the use of antibacterial soaps) may shorten the duration of symptoms in miliaria rubra even in the absence of obvious superinfection.

Other topical agents which may reduce the severity of symptoms include anti-itch preparations such as calamine or menthol or camphor-based preparations, and topical steroid creams.

There are some simple Treatments aimed at relieving symptoms that can include;

Application of a cold compress to the affected area of skin will give some soothing relief whenever you need it. You can keep a bowl of iced water by the bed when you sleep, in case you wake up suffering from the prickling sensation on your skin.

Oatmeal baths or calamine lotion to relieve itching. Make sure the water is not very hot.

Keep the skin cool and dry.

Stay indoors in the air conditioning if possible.

Avoid any excessive rubbing of the skin.

Only wear cool loose clothing.

Try an application of a topical steroid cream if these treatment suggestions don't help. Normally any form of Ointment would be avoided as it can block the pores more than they already are.

Self Care strategies for Living with Prickly heat

In most tropical areas the local dispensaries sell Prickly Heat Powder, a talc admixture containing drying milk proteins (Labilin) and Triclosan to fight the infection. These include cooling menthol to help alleviate difficulty getting to sleep.

This is an effective treatment — the powder stays on the skin longer and treats bacteria dispersed into bed linens, providing a reasonably dry refuge area for healing.

Consider that miliaria often covers large areas, and generous use of Cortisone may be contraindicated for reasons stated on package warnings. Regular talcum powder will not reduce the rash but can alleviate burning and itching.

~ Gently wash skin with soft gauze and lukewarm water and pat on a mixture of one part alcohol to three parts boiled water after cooled.

Dust with Talcum powder or use baking soda in a little water than dust with talcum.

~ Try a cool compress.

While a thin coating of mild, water-based moisturizing lotion may help stop the itching, cool compresses sometimes work better.

Make a compress by dipping a washcloth in a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda per cup of cool water. Apply to the rash for five to ten minutes. Do this four or five times a day.

~ Anti-histamine creams or medications will relieve the itch.

~ Calamine lotion BP and natural oatmeal based creams can be soothing.

~ Aloe Vera Gel Most skin conditions respond well to application on aloe vera plant extract. If you have the plant in your garden it can be applied directly. Otherwise commercial gels can be very beneficial.

~ Soak away the itch.

To counter the itching that accompanies prickly heat, add some baking soda or a colloidal oatmeal product such as Aveeno Bath Treatment to a tub of tepid water or make your own oatmeal bath. A good soak will soothe the skin and take away the itching.

Diet change strategies:

Other agents have been investigated including supplemental vitamin A and C and vitamin A based medications, but it is worth noting that there is little scientific evidence supporting any of the above treatments in terms of actually reducing the duration of symptoms or frequency of complications.

Vitamin & Nutrient Associations

Even when we try to eat well, we're disadvantaged. The nutritional content of most food has been compromised over the years, not only by deficient soils and modern production, transportation, storage and processing methods, but also by the enormous amounts of chemical and artificial substances added to promote growth, storage life, taste and appearance.

It's for this reason that more and more medical authorities are advocating the use of vitamin and mineral supplements. However, finding them in the right combination can be both confusing and costly.

The nutrition products I am going to recommend you make use of knowledge gained from the botanical world's 6,000 year history. They incorporated health building nutritional herbs with the best modern technology to help our bodies cleanse and detoxify so that the cells - the tiniest living units - can be as fully nourished as possible.

This allows the cells to grow, repair and to perform their functions with the best possible efficiency so that we feel and look better and are more able to prevent and fight disease. Once the body begins to clear itself of toxins it can more efficiently absorb nutrition.

As Aloe Vera Juice is a refreshing and anti-bacterial drink, you might find that taking this daily, diluted in some filtered water will not only refresh you like ‘a shower inside you’ but also assists in dealing with any digestive issues you may also be experiencing.

You may find benefit from our information on detoxification as well as a bit about detoxing because of change of diet

It may be due to difficulties with your digestive system that is causing your body to be starved of key nutrients, vitamins or minerals. In this case you may find useful answers by reviewing our article on Nutrition For Your Cells. There is also more information here about why is nutrition such an issue nowadays?

It may be that your metabolism has slowed due to pressures that have been placed on your system through life in general or through specific “challenges” you have faced in the last few months or last few years. Review this by looking at our article about balancing your Metabolic Rate.

Further reading through our articles on Prickly heat health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out.

We wish you well in your search for solutions to this Prickly heat problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.

More Resources available about Prickly heat:

Learn more here on our page about the causes and effects of excessivesweating. Learn more here on our page about the causes of common skin rash.

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