What is Prickly Heat?

Prickly heat or heat rash describes a cluster of small itchy red blisters across the skin that cause a burning or prickling sensation. Also known of as miliaria, the rash occurs as a result of blocked sweat glands. Obese and overweight individuals are susceptible to prickly heat as are babies and small children due to their under developed sweat glands.

Symptoms of prickly heat

Some of the clinical features of prickly heat are:

  • The rash commonly develops across the face, neck, chest and back but may also develop in the genital folds, armpits and back of the thighs
  • The rash causes skin to feel rough with an itching, burning, stinging or prickling sensation
  • Sometimes the rashes may acquire a secondary bacterial infection that may give rise to painful lesions filled with pus

Causes of prickly heat

Prickly heat occurs more commonly during the summer and in hot and humid climates, especially among individuals who tend to sweat more. Sweat gets trapped underneath the skin and leads to the local irritation and inflammation that causes the rash. Pockets of trapped sweat may also burst releasing sweat that then comes into contact with the red and inflamed skin and causes stinging.

Diagnosis and treatment of prickly heat

Prickly heat is diagnosed by a clinical examination of symptoms and the appearance and distribution of the rash across the body. The condition does not usually require any treatment, often resolving on its own within a few days. However, some measures that may be taken to help the rash clear are:

  • Avoiding exposure to heat by staying indoors and in an air conditioned environment
  • Wearing loose cotton clothes and undergarments
  • Taking regular baths in cool water and using soap to remove any accumulated sweat and grime
  • Applying calamine-containing lotions to soothe affected areas
  • In severe cases, steroid-containing creams and lotions may also be recommended

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, January 20). What is Prickly Heat?. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 21, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Prickly-Heat.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Prickly Heat?". News-Medical. 21 July 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Prickly-Heat.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Prickly Heat?". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Prickly-Heat.aspx. (accessed July 21, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. What is Prickly Heat?. News-Medical, viewed 21 July 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Prickly-Heat.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.