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What Causes Prickly Heat Rash and How to Prevent It?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Aman Sharma 88% (344 ratings)
DNB (Dermatology), Fellowship in Skin & Lasers, MBBS, Masters of Dermatology (M.Derm)
Dermatologist, Gurgaon  •  12 years experience
What Causes Prickly Heat Rash and How to Prevent It?

The small, red itchy spots that appear on your skin during the hot summer months or after contact with hot temperatures are known as prickly heat, and cover areas of your body such as the neck, back, face, thighs and chest.

So, what causes this form of skin rash?
Prickly heat typically occurs when you sweat excessively, such as usually in a hot and humid environment. The heavy sweating along with the bacteria present on the skin and the dead skin cells causes the blocking of sweat glands. This results in the buildup of sweat underneath your skin and the characteristic bumps that you see. When these bumps burst open to release the sweat that is buildup within, it causes a prickly sensation, giving it its name.
Certain factors can also increase your chances of contracting prickly heat like:

  • Being obese or overweight
  • Sitting too close to a fire or heater
  • Being dormant due to illness
  • Wearing too much clothing

How to prevent it?
Heat rashes usually clear up on its own if the affected spot is kept clean and dry. However there are certain things that you can do to prevent it and these are:
1. Staying away from excessive heat and humidity - Heat and humidity are the main causes of heat rash. They cause you to sweat more alongside a worsening of your rash. Sitting in a shade or keeping yourself hydrated is the best way to prevent prickly heat rash from occurring.


2. Selecting the right clothes - Wearing cotton clothing in hot temperatures is one of the best ways to keep heat rash at bay.  Cotton being a natural fiber doesn't trap the heat, compared to nylon and polyester fabrics.

3. Keeping the skin hydrated - Keeping your skin cool by sitting under the fan or in an air-conditioned room is another way of preventing itchy skin rash from occurring.

4. Avoid strenuous physical activity - Keeping yourself away from the strenuous physical activity of any kind can help in preventing excessive sweating. If you have to indulge in strenuous workouts, keeping yourself hydrated is a must to avoid instances of dehydration.

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