Under the microscope: Prickly heat

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child Prickly heat
Ever get an itchy, red rash when you're hot? That's heat rash - also known as prickly heat. Here we look at what causes heat rash and how you can treat it if you get it.

What is prickly heat?

Also known as heat rash, prickly heat is a very itchy rash that usually only happens when the weather gets hot and humid. It often occurs when you sweat more than usual.

What are the symptoms of prickly heat?

Prickly heat forms a rash on your skin made up of tiny spots or bumps and it's usually red.

The rash often looks like a lot of small blisters and might also cause a little swelling, itching and stinging.

Where do I get prickly heat?

Prickly heat can affect any part of your body, but normally flares up underneath clothing because friction makes it worse as you sweat more.

Who is affected by prickly heat?

Both adults and children can get a heat rash, although kids do tend to be more likely to suffer from prickly heat because their sweat glands are as well developed.

What causes prickly heat?

Prickly heat happens when sweat glands become blocked. This often occurs in hot countries, or when there's a sudden change in temperature, because you sweat more than normal.

The more you sweat, the more likely it is that dead skin will collect in your sweat glands and block them.

How do you treat prickly heat?

There's no specific treatment for prickly heat and it's not a serious condition because most heat rashes disappear very quickly - usually within a couple of days.

  • You can apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, depending on how itchy and irritated your skin is. This will ease the soreness and cool your skin down.

  • Try to avoid synthetic clothing like polyester and go for cotton instead. Cotton allows heat to escape and not get trapped under the clothing.
  • Aloe vera gel may help to cure the itchiness

  • Stay out of the heat and get into the shade.

  • Have a shower and cool the skin down.
  • Avoid (where possible) getting sweaty - thiswill just irritate the skin further.

More help and advice

Continued below...

- 10 ways to cool down

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Mineral oil that is in most of personal care products and sits on our skin like a layer of cling film is the culprit for me. I now use products that do not contain mineral oil and no more prickly heat! Professional athletes are advised not to use products with mineral oil as it does not allow our skin to breathe and therefore does not allow us to secrete from our skin as we should. Mineral oil is shown in the ingredients under various names, usually something like petrolatum as it is derived from the distillation of crude oil. It is expensive for oil companies to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way, therefore sold very cheaply to the "cosmetic" industry as a cheap filler. Check out your product ingredients!


My daughter has suffered for many years with this and i find that Benadryl ( usually the liquid) works best. when we go on holiday she starts to take it a few days before and through out her holiday. this stops her suffering as no amount of creams and lotions have ever worked.

Anne B

I tried many creams, powders, tea tree oil, aloe vera from the living plant, others and nothing seemed to work. I have read many helpful hints for this problem. Here is what seemed to help me. I am putting ice packs on the rash area for 20 minutes, twice daily. I have been showering in cool water twice daily. I have been using an antibacterial drying soap on the area to wash. I have been using cotton towels in the area to soak up any sweat, especially while sleeping. I have been trying to eat healthier, fresh fruits and vegetables, cutting down the intake of sugar. Over the counter Cortizone cream might help alleviate pain and itch. I wanted to offer any help I could in helping anyone else with a heat rash.


I have found that using Nivea after sun lotion on the heat rash quickly heals it.


i am currently suffering from this heat rash, i get it around midday and get it often in school hours, im actually struggling to go to school because of this, i have had it for around a year and im struggling to cope in lesson as the heating is kept on all day, as soon as i get it i need to get outside so i ask to leave the lesson, just recently the weather has been hotter and i can no longer put up with this heat rash, im not really learning from lessons and its a living hell, ive fainted twice from it. once in a shop infront of my friends and was very embarresing, ive been looking for treatment over internet but nothing seems to work, i went to my doctor with it and he told me a sting cream would help, i used this regularly but didnt seem to change the condition at all. im getting very afraid that one day its going to be to hot outside and inside school to cope with it. please i need help urgently and this is literally ruining my life, ive become very boring and my friends are starting to not like me. please help :(


I think i suffer from Heat Rash. I dont necessarily get it when the weather is hot though. I get it at home, in bed, at work, at college. I get it behind the ears, along the jaw line, around the neck, on my face, forehead, chest, abdomin and back. All of these places at the same time. I went to my GP and was told its an allergy rash. I was given 'Loratadine' (an antihistamine) but they are not working. I dont know what to do about it.


I suffer very badly from heat rash when abroad, and have found that using a bite and sting relief antihistamine cream works, it helps the itching and calms the swelling of the skin. I advise to stay out of the midday sun where possible.

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