Prickly heat

An Overview

Sweat glands are located in the dermis or deep layer of the skin, and are regulated by the temperature control centers in the brain. Sweat from the gland gets to the surface of the skin by a duct. A heat rash occurs when sweat ducts become clogged and the sweat cannot get to the surface of the skin. Instead, it becomes trapped beneath the skin’s surface causing a mild inflammation or rash.

Prickly heat is often caused by exposure to warm temperatures and will normally clear up on its own after a few days. There are a few simple treatments to help reduce symptoms, but a visit to the doctor may be necessary in some situations. The face, neck, shoulders and chest are the most common places for prickly heat to occur, although it may show up anywhere. It can affect anyone, but children are more likely to have it than adults. Heat rash develops when blocked pores (sweat ducts) trap perspiration under your skin. Symptoms range from superficial blisters to deep, red lumps. Some forms of heat rash feel prickly or intensely itchy.

Prickly heat can occur in people of all ages, is more common in children and infants. The developing sweat glands in a small child are less resilient and may be more likely to become clogged. Heat rash — also known as prickly heat and malaria isn’t just for babies.

Symptoms for Prickly heat

It affects adults, too, especially during hot, humid weather. Heat rash develops when blocked pores (sweat ducts) trap perspiration under your skin. The mildest form of heat rash (miliaria crystallina) affects the sweat ducts in the top layer of skin. This form is marked by clear, fluid-filled blisters and bumps (papules) that break easily.

  • Common symptoms of heatrash include red bumps on the skin and a prickly or itchy feeling to the skin (also known as prickly hea
  • These are due to inflammation of the superficial layers of the skin (theepidermis) and the prickly sensation is similar to the feeling of mild sunburn.
  • Small bumps or blisters
  • Large, red areas of skin

The rash appears as reddened skin with tiny blisters and is due to inflammation. It often occurs in skin creases or areas of tight clothing where air cannot circulate.

Causes and triggers

Prickly heat is caused by trapped sweat. When the body is hot, it activates the sweat glands to create sweat on the skin. The sweat then cools the skin as it evaporates. Heat rash develops when some of your sweat ducts clog. Instead of evaporating, perspiration gets trapped beneath the skin, causing inflammation and rash.

When the body is kept in this warm state, the constant sweat production can overload the sweat glands. This can cause the sweat ducts to become clogged, trapping sweat in the deep layers of the skin. This trapped sweat irritates the skin, which responds by producing a rash.

  • Tight clothing that prevents sweat evaporation.
  • Bundling up in heavy clothing or sheets. This may occur when a person tries to keep warm in wintertime or when chilled because of an illness with fever.
  • Heavy creams or lotions can clog sweat ducts.
  • Health conditions that cause extra sweating (hyperhidrosis).
  • Intense exercise, hard work or any activity that causes you to sweat heavily can lead to heat rash.
  • Hot, humid weather.
  • A lot of physical activity.

Heat rash can also occur in people who are confined to bed for long periods, especially if they have a fever.


You don’t need tests to diagnose heat rash. Your doctor diagnoses it by its appearance


Prickly heat will usually go away on its own but it may have bothersome symptoms. Many people can benefit from using home remedies. Products available over the counter or online, such as calamine lotion or topical steroid creams can help treat the symptoms of redness, irritation and swelling.

Treatment for heat rash includes home remedies such as over-the-counter creams and sprays. 

Treating prickly heat also involves cooling off quickly to avoid additional sweat.

  • More-severe forms of heat rash may require ointments you apply to your skin to relieve discomfort and prevent complications.
  • Calamine lotion to soothe itching.
  • Using a gentle exfoliator in the bath or shower.
  • Corticosteroid cream or lotion to help reduce itching and inflammation.
  • Sitting in front of a fan or in an air-conditioned room can help. Cold showers or baths can reduce body temperature and help prickly heat clear up faster.
  • Antibiotic cream or lotion if bacteria are part of the cause.
  • Drying powders.
  • Anhydrous lanolin which may help prevent duct blockage and stop new lesions from forming.

Prevention and home remedies

Preventing sweat from becoming trapped in the skin is an important step to avoid a rash. This may be as simple as not using certain skin products. Skin products that contain heavy oils or petroleum jelly may clog the pores and sweat glands, which could contribute to prickly heat.

  • Keeping the skin cool on hot days is an important preventive measure. Air circulation (with fans or by other methods) usually will help with skin cooling
  • Loose fitting clothing made of natural fibers, such as linen, cotton and hemp, may reduce the amount of sweat that gets trapped on the skin.
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes that can irritate skin.
  • When it’s hot, stay in the shade or in an air-conditioned building or use a fan to circulate the air.
  • Spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned buildings.
  • Bathe or shower in cool water with nondrying soap, then let your skin air-dry instead of toweling off.
  • Avoid using creams and ointments that contain petroleum or mineral oil, which can block pores further.
  • Keep the skin clean with frequent baths or showers to prevent sweat glands from becoming clogged.
  • Have tub bath.
  • Drying powders.

The heat index adds humidity to the equation since sweat cannot evaporate if the water content in the air (humidity) is high. If the air holds as much water as it can there is no place for sweat to go and evaporation cannot cool the body.

Hope this Symptoms and cure article will be helpful to all. Do not forget to share your valuable suggestions if any.

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