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Prickly heat rash – Pictures, Treatment, Symptoms, Causes

What is prickly heat rash?

Prickly heat rash is a skin condition that results in the development of lumps or blisters and can cause prickly sensations or itching. Even though the condition is more common in infants and babies, it can affect adults too, particularly during and hot and humid conditions. Prickly heat rash is often referred to as miliaria.

Prickly heat rash results from the blockage of the perspiration ducts causing the sweat to be trapped beneath the skin. This can lead to the development or deep, reddish lumps or superficial blisters.

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Prickly heat rash generally tends to vanish on its own. Severe cases of prickly heat rash may require medications, but more often than not, the condition is resolved by prevention of sweating as well bringing down the temperature of the skin

Symptoms of prickly heat rash

In adults, prickly heat rash generally tends to occur in the skin-creases and where the skin tends to rub against clothing causing friction. In infants, the shoulders, neck and chest are most affected but instances can also be found in regions such as the groin, the armpits as well as the elbow folds.

There are three types of prickly heat rash, each with different symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms of prickly heat rash along with its types are listed below:

Miliaria crystalline

  • This is the mildest form of prickly heat rash and affects the perspiration ducts in the uppermost layer of the skin.
  • It causes small, clear and shallow blisters as well papules or bumps which break easily.
  • The blisters do not cause itching or pain and tend to vanish on their own. They can however come back if humid and hot conditions prevail. It is more common in newborns than adults.

Miliaria rubra

  • This tends to appear deeper in the skin and affects the sweat ducts in the epidermis or the outer layer of the skin. Prolonged bed rest or exposure to hot humid conditions can result in this form of prickly heat rash in adults. Infants can be affected by it in between the first and third weeks after birth.
  • The affected regions can result in prickly sensations as well as itching.
  • There is formation of reddish bumps
  • The affected areas may show little or absence of sweating

Miliaria profunda

  • This is rare form of prickly heat rash and tends to affect adults who have persistent cases of miliaria rubra. It affects a deeper part of the skin called the dermis and occurs after heavy physical exercise or other activities that precipitate sweating.
  • Formation of lesions that are solid, flesh-colored and look like goose bumps
  • Little amounts of sweating can lead to increased signs of heat exhaustion like nausea, blood pressure, palpitations or rapid heartbeats, headaches as well as dizziness.

Prickly heat rash complications

Prickly heat rash may result in some complications such as:

  • Secondary bacterial infection of the prickly heat rash leading to inflammation of the itchy bumps. Other symptoms of infection include fever or chills, the drainage of pus from the lesions or bumps, swelling of lymph nodes on the neck, groin or armpits as well as excessive pain, redness, warmth or swelling around the affected region.
  • Cases of heat exhaustion that are left untreated can lead to serious consequences such as a heatstroke.

Causes of prickly heat rash

Prickly heat rash is caused due to the clogging of the sweat ducts. Therefore, instead of evaporating, the sweat gets trapped under the skin leading to inflammation of skin and rash

Some of the causes and the reasons that lead to the blockage of sweat ducts include:

  • Newborns have sweat ducts that have not developed completely. Such immature ducts are more susceptible to easy rupturing leading to the trapping of perspiration under the skin. This can happen if the infants are clothed with heavy woolens, due to hot and humid weather, the presence of high fevers or if they are placed in incubators.
  • Tropical climates that include humid and hot weather
  • Intense exercise or other physical activities that cause excessive sweating can result in clogging of the ducts leading to the development of prickly heat rash
  • Improper or tight clothing or the use of certain fabrics that prevent sweating or evaporation of sweat
  • Certain kinds of medications to treat illnesses
  • Overheating of the body due to excessive clothing or sleeping under an electric blanket in the winters
  • Excessive use of creams and ointments that result in blocking of the pores
  • On rare occasions, prolonged or excessive bed rest of patients in hospitals can also lead to the development of prickly heat rash

Prickly heat rash treatment

  • The best way to treat prickly heat rash is to allow the body to cool and to reduce sweating. This can be done by staying indoors in air-conditioning or where there is circulation of air through fans; through the use of loose clothing made of light fabrics such as cotton as well as limiting physical activities.
  • Severe cases of prickly heat rash can be treated with topical medications such as calamine lotion to relieve itching, anhydrous lanolin to prevent duct clogging as well as to stop the formation of new lesions and topical steroids in the severest of cases

Prickly heat rash pictures

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