Prickly heat, also known as miliaria, sweat rash, or heat rush can appear anywhere on the body. It often presents as a red rash or small red bumps that look like beads of sweat or acne. People may experience uncomfortable, itchy, burning, or prickly sensations. Prickly heat happens when sweat cannot escape from the sweat ducts to the surface of the skin. This blocks the pores and causes an inflammatory response from the body in the form of a rash.
Prickly heat can happen for various reasons, including
- being in a hot, humid environment
- wearing tight, synthetic clothing
- long-lasting bed rest
- intense exercise
Prickly heat can clear up by itself in a few days, but there are also treatments people can do at home to help relieve itching and cool the skin.
Top 10 remedies to get ride of prickly heat
1. Use a cold compress
One of the best ways to relieve heat rash is to cool the skin down. People can apply a cold compress, such as an ice pack or cold cloth, to the area of skin to reduce redness, itching, and swelling. If using an ice pack, make sure to wrap the ice pack in something, such as a towel, to protect the skin (never apply an unwrapped ice pack directly to the skin). Do not leave ice on for extended periods. A good rule of thumb would be to keep the ice pack in place for 5–10 minutes, remove it for the same amount of time, reapply, and continue to repeat the process.
2. Take a cool bath or shower
Taking a cool bath or shower cools the skin and can help to soothe itchy skin. Using a gentle exfoliant on the skin may help to unblock the pores.
3. Use fans or air conditioning
Fans and air conditioning can help to keep temperatures low indoors and help the body stay cool. This is especially important for anyone on bed rest. Make sure to move anyone who is immobile regularly to ensure all parts of their body are getting cool air. When exercising in hot climates, make sure there is air conditioning indoors. When outdoors, choose to exercise during cooler parts of the day or in the shade to reduce excess sweating.
4. Wear loose cotton clothing
Wearing loose clothing allows air to circulate the body, keeping it cool. Wearing lightweight, breathable clothing, such as cotton or natural fabrics, rather than synthetic, might also help.
5. Apply calamine lotion
Using calamine lotion can help to relieve itching. However, it can be very drying on the skin, so it might be good to use a moisturizer alongside it to prevent further irritation to the skin. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom report that calamine lotion may help with heat rash.
6. Use hydrocortisone cream
Using an OTC hydrocortisone cream can help to relieve the itching and discomfort from Prickly heat. Applying the cream 1–2 times daily can help reduce the rash in children. If people are treating babies with heat rash, do not use hydrocortisone cream under their diapers.
7. Apply aloe vera
Aloe vera has many medicinal properties, and the gel has strong anti-inflammatory effects. People may find that applying aloe vera gel onto heat rash can help to ease the irritated skin.
8. Bathe in baking soda
Adding baking soda to a bath may help soothe irritated skin. A 2004 study looked at the effects of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) on 31 people with mild to moderate psoriasis. Those that bathed in a baking soda bath reported improvements in skin itching and irritation.
9. Apply sandalwood
A 2017 study on rats found that sandalwood had analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties may help relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms of prickly heat. People can try mixing sandalwood powder with water to form a paste and apply this to the area of prickly heat. People should first test the paste on another area of skin to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction.
10. Take an antihistamine
Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine tablet can relieve the itching and any swelling of heat rash. Oral antihistamines, such as hydroxyzine and diphenhydramine, can help to relieve itching. Some types can cause drowsiness, so it may be best to use them at night.
Prickly heat can be a warning sign that the body is getting too much heat. If a person is outdoors, they can move out of direct sunlight and wear loose clothing to keep cool. If people are indoors, keeping the room well ventilated with fans or air conditioning can help keep the body cool. Prickly heat usually clears up within a day or two, and people may find relief from the itching and burning sensation by trying the home remedies above. If prickly heat does not clear up within 7 days or notice other symptoms, they should see their doctor.