Prickly heat is an irritating condition that is particularly common during the summer months. It is the result of sweat being trapped inside the skin. But how does it happen?
During hot and humid conditions, the sweat glands produce a lot of sweat to help cool the skin by evaporating heat. But if the body stays in this environment for a long time, sometimes the sweat glands get overloaded.
The ducts which carry the sweat to the skin surface then become obstructed. The sweat then builds up under the skin instead of coming to the surface and this causes inflammation, leading to the symptoms of prickly heat.
As has already been said, the most common cause of prickly heat is high temperature. In addition, some medications, e.g. diuretics, drugs for Parkinson’s disease, tranquillizers etc. can increase the risk of the condition.
Prickly heat can affect anyone, but children are more susceptible. It usually appears on surfaces where skin touches the skin, especially the inner thighs and armpits. The face, neck, shoulders and chest are also common places for it. For children, the groin, face and neck are the commonest areas.
Prickly heat makes the skin red, with a feeling of warmth, stingy, itchy or prickly sensation. Small red dots or rashes are also visible. These dots or rashes can develop into blisters. These blisters may eventually get bigger, irritating and painful.
While there is a risk that prickly heat may spread to other areas of the body, it is not infectious. So, it is not transferrable from one person to another.
How to avoid
One of the first steps of dealing with prickly heat should be stopping the use of skin products containing heavy oils and petroleum jelly. Wearing cotton or linen cloths that are loose-fitting may also reduce the risk of sweat trapping in the skin.
After a long day, we should always change the sweaty clothes and get into clean ones. Taking a cool shower can help too.
We need to cut the time we spend in a hot environment as well. using fans or an air-conditioner, if possible, is advisable.
For babies, the diapers must be changed immediately after soiling. Drinking plenty of fluid, using prickly heat powder can help as well. People prone to prickly heat may practice regular washing the body with mild soap after sweating.
If someone has prickly heat, it should be remembered that it usually goes away within a few days.
However, symptoms are bothersome, and the patients may want something to alleviate those. Cold shower, antihistamine medications that don’t need a prescription, calamine lotions are all common remedies.
If the symptoms of prickly heat persist for more than a week or the rashes get infected, it is better to consult a doctor.
Dr Imtiaz Ahmed completed his MBBS from Dhaka Medical College.