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Prickly Heat

Medically termed as 'Miliaria rubra' or just ‘Miliaria', prickly heat is a non-infectious, eruption on the skin surface that occurs owing to congestive problems of the sweat glands. Alternately, prickly heat is also commonly known as heat or summer rash that usually have an effect on infants and small children. Precisely speaking, prickly heat is caused owing to excessive sweating - known as ‘hyperhidrosis' - that blocks as well as inflames the sweat glands. As the congested sweat pores do not allow the sweat to come out on the skin surface, they are locked inside resulting to irritation and often itching. Prickly heat is generally marked by minute eruptions on the skin, resembling blisters. In other words, excessive sweating owing to the outside heat blocks the sweat glands for a while and this obstructs the proper purification of the blood resulting to prickly heat.

This condition is widespread during summer when the days are hot and humid and occur often after sunburn. It may also be caused by a fever or to extreme warmness owing to wearing excessive clothing or an overcharged atmosphere. Usually, prickly heat lasts for around three to seven days. Though prickly heat does not cause any harm to our general health, it does have an affect on an adult's psychological health and make a child touchy causing them to become easily upset.

Prickly heat is distinguished by reddish areas on the skin with tiny bumps resembling blisters at the center of the affected area. Such rashes may appear any where on the body - face, chest, stomach, neck, shoulders and other places. They cause an inflamed and stinging sensation. While infants and children are more susceptible to prickly heat or summer rash, this condition may affect people of every age. Infants and children are easily affected by ‘Miliaria' because their sweat glands are not completely developed. In addition, prickly heat is more common in areas having tropical climatic regions where the summers are very hot and humid - an ideal condition for ‘Miliaria' to develop.

As mentioned earlier, the common symptoms of ‘Miliaria' or summer rash include tiny pimple-like eruptions on the skin that are grainy in nature. The color of the rash may either be reddish or simply a few shades darker than the person's skin complexion. Almost always, prickly heat eruptions are caused by inflammation and the affected person has a burning sensation over the area. In fact, the condition causes utmost discomfort to the infants and children who have a soft skin. In addition, when an individual, especially infants and children, are affected by prickly heat, they are faced with the risks of a bacterial infection also.

Generally, prickly heat eruptions first appear around the neck and then spread to the other parts of the body - extending downwards to the chest and the back and spreading upwards to the face and around the ears.

There are a number of types of prickly heat and majority of them do not require any medical treatment. The rashes disappear on their own around three to seven days after they appear. What is important during this period is to keep the baby cool. While the weather may be hot, just don't be panicky while taking off the baby's clothing. In fact, yet there is nothing that goes on to prove that nakedness during early life actually turns one to be a nudist when he/she grow up! While the prickly heat rash remains for a few days and then disappear on its own, the condition may persist for a longer period if the weather remains hot and humid for a stretch.

Prickly heat symptoms

Although prickly heat or summer rash may result in a number of symptoms, most of them are mild in nature and do not cause any harm to the health in general. These symptoms last for a few days and eventually disappear causing little discomfort or physical and mental trauma. Some of the common symptoms of prickly heat in infants and children are mentioned below.

  • Tiny reddish pimple-like eruptions on the surface of the skin.
  • Reddish uneven rashes occur on the skin areas covered by clothing.
  • Irritating, stinging and/or feeling of burning in the area affected by the condition.
  • Salt crystals may form in the ducts of the sweat glands resulting in tiny blisters in when the case is acute.
  • A group of blisters may appear and disappear when the patient is exposed to a damp, hot weather or direct sunlight.
  • Pain and irritation occurs in areas where sweating is profuse.
  • In case of infants, diaper rash may also occur.

What causes prickly heat

Prickly heat is caused when sweat glands are blocked owing to excessive perspiration in hot and moist weather conditions. These sweat glands are usually congested by dead skin cells and bacteria preventing the sweat from coming out on the surface of the skin. On the other hand, the blockade of the sweat pores forces the sweat to accumulate on the skin causing tenderness or irritation that eventually results in eruption of rash. Generally, people who are obese or perspire easily are more susceptible to develop prickly heat or summer rash. Infants and children too are more vulnerable to developing prickly heat as their sweat glands are not only completely developed, but also because they have very soft skin. Some of the conditions that are responsible for developing prickly heat or “Miliaria' are mentioned below:

  • Lack of proper cleanliness;
  • Overweight or plumpness;
  • Hereditarily;
  • Allergies to antiperspirants or deodorants;
  • Blockage of sweat glands owing to dead cells or bacteria;
  • Hot and moist weather conditions;
  • Excessive physical activity in a hot, humid weather; and/ or
  • Wearing clothes made from polyester or lycra while working out in a warm weather.

Ways to avoid prickly heat

Prickly heat or summer rash is a very common medical condition that is widespread during the summer. In fact, it is a trivial skin disorder that can be avoided with a little effort and caution. People who are very conscious regarding their personal hygiene seldom develop prickly heat. In fact, most of them never experience it through their lifetime. In order to prevent prickly heat, all that you need to do is emphasize on your personal hygiene as well as be well-informed about a few things. Below are a few guidelines that may help you to keep away from prickly heat:

  • Whenever possible, keep away from hot and humid climatic conditions.
  • Never overwork yourself to such extent that makes you perspired profusely.
  • Clean the sweat from the body as soon as it occurs.
  • If possible, take a bath to remove the sweat. If this is not possible, you should wipe your body thoroughly with a coarse towel to clean out the sweat pores on the skin.
  • In case your work entails sweating profusely, ensure that you bathe frequently, especially during summer.
  • It is very important to take a bath before bed time to avoid sweat from drying up on the skin and clogging the sweat pores on the skin over the night.
  • Whenever possible, try and use air-conditioning to keep the body cool.
  • Keep your room properly ventilated during summer, as air circulation is of utmost importance during this time of the year.
  • Ensure that you always wear loose garments made from cotton during the summer to enable free passage of air.
  • Last, but not the least important, drink plenty of water, especially during summer. Drinking plenty of water helps to keep the sweat glands or sebaceous glands free from congestion and allow them to function effectively.

Tips to prevent prickly heat rash

Prickly heat is a minor skin disorder and, hence, it is possible to prevent it most of the times. This condition is basically caused by the clogging of the sweat pores by dead skin cells and bacteria. Therefore, it is important to keep away from both. In case you have a tendency to sweat profusely which actually results in prickly heat, you need to be extra cautious and well-aware of some facts that would help you to prevent developing the condition. Here are a few tips on how to prevent prickly heat rash:

  • Never overdress, especially during summer.
  • During summer always wear cotton garments with a view to promote sweat evaporation and also avoid any additional irritation of the skin.
  • Always maintain your baths and showers chill.
  • Change the nappy of your baby as frequently as possible.
  • Also change the diapers of the infants the moment they are wet.
  • During summer keep your room cool. Air conditioning your room will help in this regard.
  • Try to keep off moisturizers, especially in the case of infants. It is true that the skin of newborns is tender and tends to dehydrate fast and needs to be moisturized frequently. Nevertheless, applying moisturizers enclosing heavy and oil-based lotions may prove to be a problem. Therefore, use a light and water-based lotion to keep the skin of your baby moisturized.
  • Most importantly, also try and keep off from direct sunlight.
  • Also take baths or sponge baths as many times as possible in hot and humid climatic conditions.
  • Do not exert yourself during the summer season and also when the weather is hot and humid.
  • Never wear tight garments or clothes made from polyester. As much as possible, wear cotton garment as this will enable free air passage and your skin to breathe.
  • In order to keep your skin soft and tender, apply light and water-based moisturizers or any lotion regularly.
  • Ensure the use of powders containing cornstarch which helps to absorb sweat.
  • Take multi-vitamin dietary supplements regularly to promote the immune system and enable it to work efficiently to keep away from bacterial attacks.

Home remedies for prickly heat rash

As discussed earlier here, occurrence of prickly heat rash is widespread during the summer, when the weather is typically hot and humid. Moreover, when an individual develops prickly heat, he or she usually purchases some cream or body powder that is easily available in the market and apply them on their skin. While these lotions and body powders are usually effecting in alleviating the symptoms of this skin disorder, but it is important to bear in mind that each individual has a different type of skin and, hence, require different formulations to be effective for their respective conditions. Therefore, it is possible that the general formulations readily available in the market may not work for everyone. On the contrary, applying these creams and powders may sometimes even worsen the symptoms of prickly heat in many instances.

As a result, it is usually safer to use herbal products and natural medications to alleviate prickly heat symptoms. This is important for using herbal products or any of the natural remedies that will not result in any adverse effect even when they are used in excessive dosages. Here we will briefly discuss some of the different home remedies that are effective in alleviating the prickly heat rash.

Now we are going to discuss about a very complicated, but sure process to get rid of prickly heat rash in detail. The first thing to do is to look for an earthen vessel and when you have one, fill it up with fresh drinkable water. Next, take as many as 15 to 20 gooseberries - amalaki (botanical name Emblica officinalis). Wipe each of these gooseberries meticulously and then put them in the water contained in the earthen vessel. Once you have put all the gooseberries in the pot, cover it with a lid and allow them to soak in water throughout the night. In the morning, you will find the gooseberries in the earthen pot to have become soft and spongy. Reduce the soft gooseberries to pulp in water and subsequently, filter the water, add some sugar for taste and drink it. You need to drink plenty of this liquid so that it completely quenches your thirst. Drinking this herbal formulation will not only help to bring down the body temperature/ heat, but also help to heal the prickly heat rash in a matter of just a week. In addition, this home remedy will also clear the stomach and improve the digestive system that will help you to recuperate faster. In fact, this home remedy is only one among several natural treatments for prickly heat rash.

Here is another home remedy that is effective in healing prickly heat rash. Take a few leaves of the Indian plum (Jamun, botanical name Syzygium cumini) and blend it with some baking soda. Subsequently, crush the Indian plum leaves and baking soda to prepare a paste and apply the paste on the skin areas affected by prickly heat. This natural remedy is known to be a sure shot treatment for prickly heat.

Drinking sufficient amounts of lime juice too is a very effective natural remedy to heal prickly heat rash. Consuming plenty of lime juice helps to calm down the internal body heat, which is a primary reason for the occurrence of prickly heat. In case you have already developed prickly heat, you ought to drink a minimum of three to four glasses of lime juice every day. When you do this, you will find that the prickly heat rash has cleared within two weeks.

Other natural remedies for treating prickly heat or summer rash include consumption of sufficient amounts of consuming sugarcane juice. In fact, sugarcane has been found to be highly effective in healing the symptoms of summer rash, as it possesses characteristics that help in cooling the human body. During hot, humid weather conditions, make it a point to drink at least one glass of sugarcane juice as this will help you to avoid developing prickly heat. In case you have already developed prickly heat rash, you need to drink a minimum of two glasses of sugarcane juice. This will help you to get rid of the rash and other symptoms of prickly heat in just three to four days.

Alternately, you may try another natural medication to prevent or treat prickly heat. Get some oil extracted from the neem tree and add some amount of camphor to it. Use this oil to massage on the skin area affected by prickly heat - precisely speaking, on the rash. Allow the oil to remain on your body for around 30 minutes and then take a bath with cool water. Massaging with neem oil mixed with camphor will not only provide relief from the symptoms of prickly heat, but also heal you within a few days. This method is said to be one of the most effective natural remedy for prickly heat.

In addition, you may also purchase neem soaps from the market. Buy them and bathe with this soap during the summer season, as it will help you to keep the sweat gland pores clean and avoid prickly heat. Even if you have already developed prickly heat, bathing with neem soap will help to heal the condition. Alternately, you may also use the pulp of a watermelon to treat prickly heat rash. Apply the pulp of a watermelon on the areas where prickly heat rash has erupted. Applying the pulp of watermelon will help to calm down the body heat - the primary cause of prickly heat. In addition, people who are already affected by this skin condition will be healed quickly if they apply the pulp of watermelon on the rash.

Yet another way to prevent or treat prickly heat using natural remedies is ingesting kokum. Dip four to five pieces of kokum in two glasses of water at night. Filter the water in the morning and boil it until the amount reduces to half - till the time two glasses of water is reduced to one glassful of water. Allow the water to cool for some time and then add around three teaspoonfuls of sugar to it and drink the formulation. Kokum is known to be a very effective cure for calming down the body temperature; thereby treating prickly heat. Like the neem, kokum too is considered to be one of the most effective cures for summer rash or prickly heat.

There are numerous other natural remedies that are effective in protecting against as well as healing prickly heat. Sandalwood is another significant herb that not only helps to cool the body temperature, but also cure prickly heat rash. Prepare a paste by blending sandalwood powder with an equal amount of rose water and apply the paste on the skin areas affected by prickly heat. Sandalwood possesses cooling properties and helps to remove excessive heat from the human body. The herb may be used for treating infants and children who have developed summer rash as the usage of the herb does not produce any adverse aftereffects. Alternately, prepare a fine powder or dust of sandalwood and sprinkle it all over the body. Even using sandalwood dust as a talcum powder is effective in avoiding as well as healing prickly heat.

Here is another effective home remedy for prickly heat or summer rash. Mix equal amounts of powders of sandalwood, nut grass tubercle, coriander seeds and dried khus-khus grass roots. Subsequently, put in mixture of these powders in rose water to prepare a thick paste. Apply this paste on all the body parts affected by prickly heat or on the rashes. It has been proved that this paste provides great respite from the symptoms of prickly heat. You may try any of the above mentioned home remedies both to prevent as well as treat prickly heat during summer.

There are numerous other home remedies that are effective in healing the symptoms of prickly heat. One such home remedy is applying a watered down paste prepared with gram flour and water on the body. Allow the paste to remain on the body for approximately 30 minutes. After half an hour take a bath with cold water and rinse the paste from the body. Remember to scrub the body well so that all of the paste is removed during the bath. Doing so will provide enough respite from the prickly heat symptoms, especially inflammations and burning sensation.

Another natural way to treat prickly heat is to consume watermelon. After cutting a watermelon, peel off its thick covering and eat the reddish fruit or pulp inside. While eating the fruit will cool the body, external application of the watermelon peel on the skin affected by prickly heat or the areas where the rashes have erupted will provide relief. Use the inner portion of the peel to rub on the skin. This way, watermelon helps to bring down the body temperature both within and on the outside (skin) and facilitates the healing process in people who have developed prickly heat. Watermelon is also considered to be among the best foods for people who have been affected by prickly heat or summer rash.

In addition drinking plenty of juices from citrus fruits is also effective in treating prickly heat, as citrus fruit juices help to keep the body cool. It may be mentioned here that high body temperature adds to the symptoms of prickly heat and, hence, to treat the condition, it is important that the body remains cool. You may drink juices of any citrus fruit, including oranges, watermelons, lemons, pineapples and others. Drinking a number of glasses of citrus fruits every day will not only keep the body temperature low, but also defend against the external heat.

Other natural methods of treating prickly heat is applying pastes prepared with flour and cornstarch with water on the skin areas affected by the condition. After applying the paste on the areas where the prickly heat rashes have emerged, allow it to remain for around 30 minutes. The cornstarch or flour paste will completely dry out during this time. After half an hour, take a bath with cold water and rinse the paste totally. Alternately, you may also use a rough towel drenched in cold water and apply the cold compress on the areas where the summer rashes have emerged on the body. Both these methods will help to cool your body temperature and provide you relief from the inflammation caused by this skin condition. Applying cold compress on the affected areas is considered to be one of the significant remedies to treat prickly heat.

People in the central Asian regions use a natural remedy that is very effective in treating prickly heat in adults as well as children. This natural treatment of summer rash requires Fuller's Earth, what is known as ‘Multani Mitti' by the locals in this part of the world. Prepare a runny, but not watered down paste of this special mud with water and apply it on the skin areas affected by prickly heat using a wooden spatula. Coat the prickly heat rashes completely with the paste made with ‘Multani Mitti'. Once you have applied the paste, sit in a place having excellent air circulation. Keep the affected areas smeared with the Fuller's earth paste exposed to the air. You need to remain in the position for approximately an hour and utilize the time reading something or doing anything that will not require leaving the place. Gradually, the paste will stiffen and stretch your skin. When this happens, you should deem it as a good sign and be aware that the curative process has started. After an hour, when the mud in the paste has dried up, take a full bath in cold water. The bath will not only refresh you, but also open up the clogged sweat pores on the skin. On the following day, you will be surprised to notice that the prickly heat rashes have disappeared altogether from the body parts where you had applied the paste prepared with “Multani Mitti'. Applying a paste made with Fuller's Earth and water on the affected areas is considered to be one of the most effective natural treatments for prickly heat.

When infants and children are affected by summer rash, dust the body areas affected by the condition with baking soda or fragrant-free talcum powder. This will not only bring relief from inflammations due to prickly heat, but also facilitate the treatment. In addition, you also apply aloe vera gel on the rashes caused by prickly heat to treat this skin condition. Presently, several products enclosing aloe vera leaf gel as an active ingredient are available in the market. These products are readily available at a chemist shop or outlets selling cosmetics.

Additional things you can do

Taking care of personal hygiene is of utmost importance as it will help you to keep off many diseases, including prickly heat. In order to treat prickly heat you need to wash your skin meticulously to ensure that the sweat pores remain open and also to keep the body cool. Therefore, rinse your skin tenderly using a soft gauze and tepid water. You may just add a mixture comprising one part alcohol to three parts of simmering water after it has cooled and pat it gently on the skin to remove all dirt and dead cells. You may also dust your body with talcum powder, preferably unscented. Alternately, you may use baking soda in small quantity of water and apply it on the body. Always ensure that your body remains cool. For this, use a cold compress on areas affected by summer rash. Although using a thin coating of a placid, water-based moisturizing cream will provide relief from itching and burning sensation caused by prickly heat, using cool compresses often prove to be better healers. You may prepare a cool compress by soaking a clean cloth in a mixture containing one teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of cool water. Apply this cool compress on the rashes for about five to ten minutes and four to five times daily.

You should also use anti-histamine lotions or take such medications, as they will provide relief from itching caused by prickly heat or summer rash.

Even using calamine based lotions and natural oatmeal based creams are helpful in alleviating the symptoms of prickly heat, such as inflammation, burning sensation and itching.

If the itching caused by prickly heat rash is too bothersome, just soak it away. Make your personal oatmeal bath using products like Aveeno Bath Treatment in a tub of lukewarm water to get rid of itching and burning sensation caused by prickly heat. Taking a nice oatmeal bath will not only help to relieve itching, but also keep the skin cool by lowering body temperature.

If you have developed prickly heat or summer rash, apply steroid creams and lotions enclosing hydrocortisone at least thrice every day as this helps to get relief from symptoms like irritation, itching and burning sensation.

When an individual develops prickly heat or ‘Miliaria', he or she should take cool showers or baths to keep the skin clean and the sweat pores open. In addition, cool baths and showers help to keep the body temperature low, thereby alleviate itching and other symptoms of prickly heat.

As mentioned earlier, taking a cool oatmeal bath not only helps to alleviate the symptoms of prickly heat, such as itching and inflammation, but also facilitates the curative process. Similarly, you may also use oatmeal blends or soaps containing oatmeal for the same results.

Proper ventilation is of great importance for healing prickly heat rash. Therefore, not only always try to expose the rash to fresh air, but also keep the rashes free from any obstruction, such as using tight clothing or bandages.

Use drawing ointments on the body parts affected by prickly heat as they will help in cleansing the areas where the blisters or rashes have erupted.

People who have been enduring chronic prickly heat will find that anti-itch medicines like Benadryl are useful in providing relief from the bothersome symptoms of summer rash or ‘Miliaria'.

Supplements and herbs

As mentioned earlier, herbs are effective in alleviating the symptoms of prickly heat. There are number of them that provide takes off the stinging and burning sensation caused by this condition and provide comfort. Here are brief mentions regarding two herbs that are effective against prickly heat rash.

  • External application of aloe vera gel is not only comforting, but also helps to keep the body cool. Mash the aloe vera plant to extract the herb and apply it on the rash on the skin. It will remove the body heat and also help to get rid of the stinging sensation of the skin.
  • In addition to aloe vera herb, topical application of calendula gel or lotion on the affected skin facilitates removing the discomfort caused by prickly heat and also speeds up the healing process.

Other beneficial herbs

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