Prickly Heat Symptoms and How to Treat It

Jul 07, 2022


Skin Health

Prickly Heat Symptoms and How to Treat It

Prickly heat, otherwise known as a sweat rash, heat rash, or miliaria rubra, occurs when sweat is trapped under the skin due to clogged sweat glands. It occurs mostly in summer due to warm temperatures. Prickly heat can occur suddenly and affect anyone, but children are more vulnerable to it because of their still-developing sweat glands. Though the resulting prickly heat symptoms can be treated with home remedies, a medical visit may be required in some situations.

What Does Prickly Heat Rash Look Like?

Though prickly heat may show up anywhere, it occurs mostly on the chest, neck, shoulders, face, and any other region where your clothes rub against the skin and traps the sweat under it. The rash usually looks red with symptoms, such as:

  • Small, raised spots
  • Persistent itching
  • Mild swelling
  • Pustules (this may indicate a bacterial infection)

These symptoms may appear right away or take a few days to manifest. At times, prickly heat may even take the form of a patch with very small blisters.

Prickly Heat on Babies

Children, especially infants are more susceptible to prickly heat as their sweat glands are still developing and they are yet to get used to the changing temperature. Common affected areas include the face, arms, legs, upper chest and diaper area. You may find your baby acting extra cranky and it will be difficult to put them to sleep. However, there is no reason to worry because, like most other baby rashes, prickly heat will go away on its own.

A few ways in which you can treat your baby’s heat rash include:

  1. Keep the affected area dry. Use a fan, if needed, to dry the sweat and keep them cool.
  2. Avoid using skin powders, oils, or lotions that will block the pores and aggravate the rash.
  3. Use a mild soap and lukewarm water to bathe your baby and gently pat dry.
  4. Give your baby a break from clothes at home.

Make sure that your baby’s sleeping area is cool and well-ventilated. Also, if you take them out, stick to shady areas or air-conditioned spots whenever possible.

What Are the Different Treatment Options for Prickly Heat?

While prickly heat will subside on its own over time, it may have some bothersome symptoms. To prevent the symptoms from worsening, you will need to cool off quickly and avoid additional sweating.

At-home remedies

1. Apply a cold compress:

Use a towel or a plastic bag to create one at home and place it over the affected areas for 20 mins. Remove the compress, pat the skin dry, and let it sit in cool air.

2. Let your skin breath:

Wear breathable clothing made of polyester blends. If you are constantly exposed to hot environments, try to change your clothes often.

3. Do not scrub the affected area:

While exfoliation may provide temporary relief, it will cause long-term skin damage. So, avoid scrubbing the rash, especially if you have sensitive skin.

4. Run from the sun:

Lowering your body temperature is key to stopping sweat that would clog your skin and cause heat rash. So, if possible, stay indoors and if you go outside, stay in shady spots with less exposure to the sun.

Over-the-counter (OTC) products

You may use any of the following OTC products to calm the itchy or prickly feeling:

a) Calamine lotion:

Apply as often as needed to treat mild itches.

b) Hydrocortisone cream:

A thin layer can be applied 4-5 times to uncovered skin for a maximum of 7 days. If the rash persists, discontinue usage and consult your doctor.

c) Topical or oral antihistamines:

Dosage and application will vary depending on age, weight and other factors.

Do I Need to Visit an Urgent Care for Prickly Heat Rashes?

Prickly heat will usually go away on its own without medical treatment. However, depending on its severity, the heat rash may take anywhere between a few hours to several weeks to resolve completely.

The following are some possible timelines for recovery:

  1. Heat rash that looks like water bubbles: may resolve within a few hours or a few days.
  2. Heat rash with redness similar to a bug bite or pimples: may take a couple of days to resolve.
  3. Heat rash with deep, painful nodules: may take several weeks to subside and will require anti-inflammatory medication, like ylenol, to soothe the pain.

Make sure to seek medical help if your heat rash gets worse, or you show signs of heat stroke or exhaustion, such as:

  • Headache
  • Rapid breathing or pulse
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling sick with a high temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above
  • Cramps in the stomach, arms, and legs

How Can I Avoid Prickly Heat Problems?

  • Take cool showers or baths after visiting a hot or humid place
  • Wear moisture-wicking clothes when you exercise outdoors, as they will draw sweat away from your body instead of absorbing it
  • Stay in a cool place (like an air-conditioned room) if you live in a hot or humid climate
  • Make sure to change out of wet or sweaty clothing
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Choose light-weight bedding, such as linen or cotton sheets
  • Avoid perfumed soaps and skincare products containing mineral oil or petroleum

If you are looking for relief from persistent prickly heat symptoms, visit one of our urgent care clinics Woodbridge Walk-In Urgent Care in Irvine, Fountain Valley Urgent Care, or Costa Mesa Urgent Care, CA. today. With our swift medical care and assistance, we will help you maintain optimum health and wellness.