Prickly heat: everything you need to know

Prickly heat is a rash that develops when sweat gets trapped in the skin. Normally, sweat reaches the surface of the skin through a series of small ducts. But these ducts can clog and trap sweat inside the skin. This process can cause redness, itching, tingling or tingling, and small blisters in the affected skin area.

Prickly heat, also known as prickly heat, prickly heat. Hot weather and high humidity are common triggers of prickly heat.

This article will explain the symptoms, treatment, complications, and more of prickly heat.

Causes of prickly heat

When you sweat more than usual, your sweat ducts can become blocked, trapping sweat deep within the surface of your skin. Sweat can also leak into the top layer of the skin, called the epidermis, and get trapped there.

You can experience prickly heat any time of the year, but it occurs more frequently during the warmer weather months. People who are accustomed to cooler temperatures may develop prickly heat when they travel to places where the temperature is significantly higher than they are used to.

Prickly heat is also associated with certain types of bacteria, including staphylococcus. These bacteria normally live on the skin without causing problems, but they can form a film that blocks sweat ducts and causes skin conditions.

Other causes of prickly heat include:

  • fever
  • tight or warm clothing
  • tight bandage
  • Medicated patches on the skin
  • Oral medications, including beta-blockers
  • Health conditions such as hyperhidrosis that cause you to sweat too much
  • exercising or working in hot climates


The symptoms of prickly heat are easy to identify. The most common symptoms are red bumps and itching on areas of the skin that have been exposed to heat and sweat for a long time.

Sometimes, red bumps form small blisters. As the rash worsens, the blisters swell and become itchy, inflamed, red, and inflamed. Blisters and skin symptoms can spread to other parts of the body but are not contagious.

Symptoms in Children and Babies

Prickly heat is more common in children and infants than adults. This is because children’s sweat glands are not as strong and healthy, which makes them more prone to blockage. Furthermore, children’s bodies are not used to rapidly changing temperatures.

The symptoms of prickly heat in children are similar to those in adults. However, the rash often appears on the face, neck, and groin, and can be irritating and uncomfortable.

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In addition to the usual causes of prickly heat, other causes of prickly heat in children include:

  • Clothing fabrics that do not allow sweat to evaporate from the skin
  • Overdressing or wearing heavy fabrics
  • sleeping under too many blankets
  • wearing wet or soiled diapers for extended periods of time, especially in wet conditions

The symptoms of prickly heat may resemble those of other skin conditions such as eczema. If your symptoms or your child’s symptoms do not improve with home care, consult your healthcare professional for a diagnosis.

what is eczema

Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes the skin to become red and itchy. It is common in children but can affect people of any age. It attacks periodically and sometimes requires long-term treatment.


Prickly heat usually does not require any treatment. It usually goes away on its own within two to three days. But there are things you can do at home to ease symptoms and stay comfortable.

home remedies

The first thing you need to do to manage and reduce prickly heat symptoms is to find a cool environment. Other remedies to manage symptoms include:

  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing
  • Avoid skincare products that irritate the skin
  • Use a cold compress on the affected area
  • take a cool bath or shower
  • keep skin cool and dry
  • not scratching the affected skin area

Various over-the-counter (OTC) products are also available to help you manage and treat the symptoms of prickly heat. Over-the-counter treatments that can control prickly heat symptoms include:

  • Calamine lotion cools the skin
  • Hydrocortisone cream to help manage symptoms of redness, irritation, and swelling (use 1% hydrocortisone cream, avoid hydrocortisone ointment)
  • topical or oral antihistamines to reduce itching (antihistamine creams should not be used on children’s skin)
  • Camphor or menthol cools the skin and reduces itching.
  • Anhydrous lanolin (lanolin that does not contain water) prevents sweat duct clogging

If you have a prickly heat fever, you may consider using a fever reducer such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen). If your child has a fever due to prickly heat, contact their doctor right away.

When to contact a healthcare provider

Prickly heat usually does not require medical attention. Once the skin cools, it will go away on its own. However, in some cases, you or your child will need medical attention for heat rash.

If symptoms persist for more than a few days or you think your skin may be infected, you should see a healthcare professional.

Common signs of a skin infection include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth in the affected skin area
  • blister scabs or pus draining from the blister
  • fever and/or chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, neck, or groin

If your prickly heat feels severe or you have other concerns, you should contact your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment before symptoms worsen.


The most common complication of prickly heat is infection. Being in a hot environment that triggers prickly heat can also lead to heat exhaustion.

The most common cause of secondary infection of prickly heat is scratching. This is because scratching can cause the skin to break. If you develop an infection, you will need antibiotics. Seek medical attention if you have signs of a skin infection.

If a person experiences heat exhaustion, they sweat profusely and have cold, wet skin. They may also experience dizziness, weakness, headache, blurred vision, nausea, confusion and/or difficulty breathing.

Untreated heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heatstroke, a medical emergency. Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Fever above 103 degrees
  • flushing, hot skin
  • sweating often stops
  • shortness of breath and fast heartbeat
  • Puzzled
  • loss of consciousness
  • Seizures (rare)

If you experience or witness heat stroke or signs of heat stroke, you need to seek emergency help quickly. You should also go indoors or find a shady spot or fan to help cool down. Try cooling your body with an ice pack or drinking cold water.


Prickly heat is preventable. The most effective way to prevent it is to avoid its causes.

Try the following:

  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing when going outside in hot, humid climates.
  • When the weather is hot and humid, take a cool bath and shower.
  • On hot, humid days, spend a few hours in an air-conditioned area or use a fan.
  • Use lightweight bedding, such as cotton or linen.
  • Change out of wet or sweaty clothing as soon as possible.
  • Change your baby’s diaper as soon as the diaper becomes wet or soiled.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

If you have a medical condition, such as hyperhidrosis, that causes you to sweat more, talk to your healthcare professional or dermatologist about treatments to reduce sweating, especially during warmer weather months.

How to Treat Hyperhidrosis


Prickly heat is a rash that appears as small bumps. It is caused by blocked sweat glands, usually due to being in hot and humid areas. It causes itchy, inflamed and painful skin. Most of the time, prickly heat can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications.

You should contact your doctor if the heat rash seems to be getting worse, you suspect an infection, or if you are showing signs of heat exhaustion. Prickly heat can be prevented by managing the source of the prickly heat and staying cool and hydrated in hot, humid climates.

VigorTip words

Prickly heat is rarely a cause for concern, and it usually resolves on its own. However, it is still important to be aware of its symptoms and complications. Make sure to stay hydrated and cool during the warmer months and when exercising or working outdoors.

If your rash seems to be getting worse or has an infection, you should see your healthcare provider right away. You should also know that scratching can cause the skin to break and become infected. Finally, when you start showing signs of this condition, watch for signs of heat stroke and move to a cooler location.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you get rid of prickly heat?

    Prickly heat can be treated and controlled with self-care. This includes changing out of wet, sweaty clothing, limiting activity, finding a cool environment, using cold compresses or bathing and showering to cool the skin.

    You should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated when exercising and outdoors.

  • How long does it take for prickly heat to go away?

    Heat rash usually subsides within a few days. However, for some people, it goes away once the skin dries and cools.

  • What if my rash doesn’t go away?

    If you or your child develop symptoms of prickly heat that last more than a few days, talk to a healthcare provider. You should also see a provider whose rash appears to be getting worse if you think you have a skin infection, have a severe fever or difficulty breathing, or if you think you may be experiencing heatstroke or heat stroke.