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Prickly Heat - How to manage heat rash at home?

In reality, coconut oil application on the skin in this weather, simply worsens the miliaria or prickly heat.

Prickly Heat - How to manage heat rash at home?
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CHENNAI: The official name of prickly heat is miliaria rubra. Complicated as that sounds, it simply means that there is a blockage of the outward exit point of the sweat as it travels from the sweat gland, and through the duct into the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin.

This can happen because of high humidity (currently the state of affairs in our part of the world).

It can also happen when people mistakenly apply coconut oil or any other oil to the skin thinking that it will ‘cool’ down the heat.

In reality, coconut oil application on the skin in this weather, simply worsens the miliaria or prickly heat.

Even worse, it can cause secondary bacterial infection - at this point the problem has moved from heat rash to heat boils, and needs to be treated by a doctor.

This can also happen when applying oil to the scalp which has a high density of sweat glands, and can lead to folliculitis - an infection of the hair roots. So it is best to avoid applying oil anywhere on the scalp or face or body - at least during this season.

This same occlusion problem can happen when we apply heavy moisturisers over prickly heat as well.

What are some things which you can do to manage prickly heat at home?

  • Avoid the above mistakes.

  • Wear skin-friendly, loose-fitting clothes - cotton is the way to go. Linen and rayon are other options.

  • Plain calamine liniment still works the best for prickly heat. If the plain paste is not available at your pharmacist’s, another (less preferred) option is to use the calamine lotions available as combinations with the light liquid paraffin.

  • Sandalwood paste is a great option as well. Please note that you should use the sandalwood paste ground from the tree bark/stem (you can get these at Khadi stores, or similar Government approved outlets) and not the ones from the tablets used for religious purposes, which may contain alkaline material. Avoid sensitizers such as turmeric during this phase.

  • Shower frequently. Right after you come in from the gym or outdoors, especially if you have been sweating profusely.

  • If you can’t get home from the gym quickly, take a spare T-shirt and change into that, right after working out. This is to reduce the contact time of sweat and bacteria from your soaked T-shirt on your skin.

  • Use cotton bedsheets and change them frequently. This becomes relevant if you experience a fair bit of power outages in the night.

  • Change the vinyl fabric of chairs and other seating that you commonly use, or atleast use a cotton towel, or drape a folded soft cotton saree over it, to reduce the irritation because of the synthetic material.

  • You can use an absorbent dusting powder to keep the skin calm.

  • Drink enough water, and stay well hydrated. For skin-friendly foods in summer, check out the previous article in this column.

Prickly heat clears on its own, when the skin is well ventilated. If you have access to an air conditioned environment, even better.

During this heat wave, make sure to stay indoors wherever possible, and keep drinking adequate fluids.

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Dr Renita Rajan
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