Prickly Heat Rash

Prickly heat rash is a skin condition characterized by pink or red rashes occurring on those areas of the body that are covered by apparels. The rashes usually develop due to clogging of the sweat ducts, and are characterized by swelling, itchiness, and discomfort. Prickly heat rash is most prevalent in babies, but adults exposed to hot humid climates can also suffer from it.

Infants and babies typically develop prickly heat rash in areas such as the neck, chest, and shoulders, and uncommonly in the elbow folds, armpits, and the groin. In adults, it generally occurs in different body areas with skin creases as well as in those areas where apparels cause friction.

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The best way to alleviate the distressing symptoms is by preventing perspiration and cooling the skin. Prickly heat rash typically disappears on its own without any medical treatment. Severe forms of the condition may however require medical care.

Prickly heat rash symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms of prickly heat rash are listed below:

  • Prickly heat rash usually appears as tiny pimples or abnormal spots on the skin.
  • The affected skin areas may experience irritation due to scratching or friction with clothing.
  • Young kids may develop the skin anomalies on the neck, head, shoulders, and chest.
  • In rare instances, scratching can break open the skin and result in wounds which are then susceptible to secondary infections by bacteria and other pathogens.


Prickly heat rash is caused due to clogging of the sweat glands which then causes sweat to get trapped under the skin, eventually leading to development of the small pimples and abnormal dots on the skin surface.

The sweat glands may become clogged due to varied reasons such as elevated perspiration due to prolonged exposure to hot and humid climates, excessive use of topical medications, and other underlying skin conditions, etc.

Prickly heat rash in babies may arise due to over indulgent parents who dress the infants in excessively warm clothes. It can also occur during very hot weather.

Treatment of prickly heat rash

Prickly heat rash is a minor skin condition which typically clears on its own by following certain precautionary and self-care measures.

Prickly heat rash treatment – for babies

Just like an adult, a baby should also be dressed in a manner that is comfortable for a specific temperature and the level of activity. Even though the feet and hands of babies tend to feel cool to touch, it does not signify that they need to be dressed in warm clothes. Babies need to be dressed adequately as per the prevailing weather conditions.

Follow the steps given below to alleviate the symptoms of prickly heat rash:

  • Loosen or remove all the clothing on the baby and move her/him to a shaded and cool area.
  • If the skin experiences irritation when touched by you, then you may consult a doctor and use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.
  • Avoid using towels to dry the skin. Instead allow the skin to air-dry.
  • Do not use lotions or ointments as they can cause skin irritation or aggravate it.
  • After successful resolution of prickly heat rash, allow the baby’s skin to acclimatize to warmer temperatures by slowly exposing him/her to it.

If prickly heat rash persists for more than 3 days or appears to be worsening, even after taking relevant self-care measures, then it is important to visit a doctor. Immediately seek medical care if the baby develops a fever.

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Parents also need to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of infection in affected babies. Immediately contact a doctor in the following cases:

  • Onset of fever with temperatures of 100 F or more, or chills that have no known cause.
  • Excessive swelling, pain, warmth, or redness next to the affected skin areas.
  • Pus drainage from affected regions.
  • Reddish lines or streaks stretching from the areas with prickly heat rash.
  • Swelling of lymph nodes in armpit, neck, or groin.

You may prevent bouts of prickly heat rash in the future by dressing the baby in minimally allowed clothes during summers, keeping the skin dry and cool, and keeping the sleeping area of the baby cool and comfortable.

Prickly heat rash treatment – for adults

Prickly heat rash in adults usually resolves on its own if the affected skin regions are kept dry and cool. You can stay in an air-conditioned room or where the air is circulated by a fan. Do not use any oily skin products as they may clog the sweat glands.You may also take a bath or a shower and then let the skin air-dry.

Secondary infections of the affected skin areas need to be checked by a doctors. Bacterial infections are usually treated with topical antibiotics.

Prickly heat rash can be prevented by avoiding excess physical activities or strenuous exercising in warm weather; wearing loose clothing made of breathable fabrics; keeping hydrated by drinking lots of water and other fluids; and keeping the skin cool and dry.

 Prickly Heat Rash  – Pictures

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