Along with summer come the much dreaded heat and humidity. And for those of us who sweat a lot, prickly heat or heat rash is a common problem.
Prickly heat is an itchy rash of small, raised red spots that causes a stinging or prickling sensation on the skin. The rash can develop anywhere on the body, but it most commonly occurs on your neck, back, waistline, armpits, chest and thighs. It is worse in areas that are covered by clothing. This is because clothing can make you sweat and some fabric can cause friction (rubbing).
What causes prickly heat?
Prickly heat usually develops when a person sweats more than usual, such as during hot or humid weather. The body's sweat glands become blocked and the excessive sweating results in sweat becoming trapped beneath your skin. The trapped sweat causes skin irritation and the characteristic heat rash.
Treating prickly heat
Prickly heat is not a serious condition and rarely requires specific treatment. The rash usually disappears after a few days.
However, if you have prickly heat, there are several things you can do to ease your symptoms:
Avoid excessive heat and humidity - if you need to go outside, spend time in the shade or take a small fan with you. Further exposure to the heat will cause you to sweat more and may make your rash worse.
Wear loose cotton clothing - avoid wearing synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon, which trap heat more easily than natural fibers.
Keep your skin cool - a cold bath or shower will cool you down, soothe your skin and help prevent sweating. Staying in an air-conditioned room for a few hours a day will also provide considerable relief.
Rub ice cubes - Rub an ice cube on heat rashes to get quick relief from the burning sensation. You can also use a cold compress or ice pack.
Non-perfumed talcum powder - apply non-perfumed talcum powder or specially made prickly heat powder four to five times a day.
Aloe Vera gel - applying the gel over the affected area will give you relief from itching, heal the rash and also provide a cooling effect.
Watermelon pulp - cut watermelon into pieces and keep it in the refrigerator. Once it is cold, apply the pulp over the affected areas.
Use calamine lotion - this is available at most pharmacies and will help soothe sore and irritated skin.
Drink plenty of citrus juice - Lime juice, for example, will reduce the internal heat and also keep you well-hydrated. This will reduce your chances of developing prickly heat.
How to protect your baby from prickly heat?
Babies and children are more at risk of getting prickly heat because their sweat glands are not fully developed. If your baby has prickly heat make sure you trim his/her nails so that he/she doesn't scratch and develop an infection.
After a shower lightly rub your baby with a towel and allow him/her to air-dry.
If your baby sweats too much run a wet towel over the affected areas and allow him/her to cool.
Keep your baby hydrated at all times. If your baby is breastfeeding, feed as often as possible. If your baby is over 6 months of age, give him/her lots of fluid to drink.
Do not use lotion or oil!
Dress your baby in loose, cotton clothing and instead of using diapers use traditional kathas at night. Whenever you go out in the sun, dress your baby up in light coloured clothes and accessorise with hats and sunglasses.
Dr. Kazi Mashfia Fardeen, Medical Expert, Maya.com.bd