Description, Causes and Risk Factors:
Prickly heat is caused by the sweat glands in your skin becoming blocked as a result of sweating. The sweat cannot escape through the glands as it normally does so leaks into the skin layers below. This causes tiny spots and bumps to appear on your skin. The condition is usually made worse by hot conditions which cause you to sweat. Prickly heat is not an allergy.
There are three types of prickly heat, each relating to the layer of skin in which the sweat gland blockage occurs.
Miliaria profunda: This is caused by a blockage in the deep layer of skin, the dermis. You usually get this after repeated bouts of miliaria rubra and is rare outside tropical countries.
Miliaria crystallina: The blockage is in the top of the upper layer of skin (epidermis). This type of rash is common in babies under two weeks old, as well as adults who have a fever or have recently entered a tropical climate. This rash is usually short-lived and doesn't require any treatment.
Miliaria rubra: This is when the blockage in your sweat gland is in a deeper part of your epidermis. It commonly affects babies who are one to three weeks old and adults in hot, humid environments.
Prickly heat is a common condition in babies, affecting almost one in 10. It is thought to be caused by under-developed sweat glands. These glands burst easily when a baby sweats causing the duct to become blocked.
In adults, the most common cause of prickly heat is being in hot, humid or tropical environments you are not used to. Research has also suggested that too much ultraviolet (UV) from the sun can cause prickly heat. Other causes include activity that makes you sweat a lot, such as sport, or having a high fever.
Some medicines also may cause prickly heat.
There are several other risk factors including intake of alcohol, smoking, unhealthy and stressful lifestyle, excess consumption of junk food, untimely food eating habits also increases a chance of getting prickly heat.
The main symptom of prickly heat is a rash on your skin. Depending on the type of rash you have, this may or may not be itchy.
Miliaria rubra causes red spots on your skin and the skin around the rash is also usually red. It can be very itchy and you may have a prickling sensation on your skin. In babies and young children the rash normally occurs on the neck and in the groin and armpits. In adults, the rash often occurs on the neck and scalp, as well as the upper part of the chest and back.
With miliaria profunda, the spots are quite large with a flesh-colored head. The rash is not usually itchy and normally occurs on your trunk, but can also appear on your arms and legs.
With miliaria crystallina, the rash is usually made up of small, clear spots. It isn't normally itchy or red. This type of rash is common in babies, especially on their head, neck and the upper part of their trunk. In adults, it usually occurs on the trunk.
The diagnosis of prickly heat is made by physical examination. Knowing that the rash appears during sweating or heat, appreciating the location on the body (in skin creases or where clothes fit tightly) and seeing what the rash looks like is enough to make the diagnosis. As with many rashes, the health care practitioner can look at the involved skin and make the diagnosis.
No tests are needed to diagnose prickly heat. However, if you keep having bouts of prickly heat, it is important to see your doctorto rule out any other conditions that could look similar or those that could be causing it.
Usually prickly heat goes away on its own and does not need any treatment. Prickly heat caused by blockages deep in the skin can be uncomfortable and may lead to heat stroke. In these situations, treatment may be necessary.
The aim of treatment is to stop you from sweating. You may be advised to stick to cooler, air-conditioned climates, limit the amount of activity you do and not wear tight clothing. If you have a fever, your doctor will give you treatment to bring your temperature down.
If your rash is particularly itchy or uncomfortable, try using cooling creams such as those containing menthol or calamine. Miliaria profunda has shown some benefit from lanolin creams.
Antihistamines are generally not helpful in this condition.
Wear loose cotton clothing to encourage the evaporation of sweat and prevent further skin irritation.
Keep baths and showers cool.· Leave a babies nappy off as often as possible.
Keep rooms cool (air conditioning will help).
Avoid heavy moisturizers. Tender newborn skin tends to be dry and in need of moisturizing. But heavy, oil-based creams can be a problem. 'Moisturize with a light, water-based lotion instead.
NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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