What is prickly heat? Rash symptoms, treatment, what does it look like, and how long does it last - explained

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Heat rash can appear anywhere on the body and spread

The weather in the UK is soaring to above average temperatures, with bright skies and humid air meaning you may be a lot warmer than usual - and you may experience heat rash.

But what are the symptoms of heat rash and how is it treated?

The symptoms of heat rash are often the same in adults and childrenThe symptoms of heat rash are often the same in adults and children
The symptoms of heat rash are often the same in adults and children

Here’s what you need to know.

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What are the symptoms of heat rash?

According to the NHS, heat rash - also known as prickly heat - is uncomfortable, but usually harmless and often gets better on its own after a few days.

The symptoms of heat rash are:

  • small, raised spots
  • an itchy, prickly feeling
  • mild swelling

The rash often looks red.

The symptoms of heat rash are often the same in adults and children, and it can appear anywhere on the body and spread, but it cannot be passed on to other people.

What causes heat rash?

Heat rash is usually caused by excessive sweating.

Sweat glands get blocked and the trapped sweat then leads to a rash developing a few days later.

Babies often get heat rash because they cannot control their temperature as well as adults and children can.

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How can you prevent heat rash?

The main thing to do is keep your skin cool so you do not sweat and irritate the rash.

The NHS advises the following ways to keep your skin cool:

  • wear loose cotton clothing
  • use lightweight bedding
  • take cool baths or showers
  • drink plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration

How can you treat prickly heat?

To calm the itching or prickly feeling:

  • apply something cold, such as a damp cloth or ice pack (wrapped in a tea towel) for up to 20 minutes
  • tap or pat the rash instead of scratching it
  • do not use perfumed shower gels or creams

You can also speak to a pharmacist about heat rash. They can give advice and suggest the best treatment to use.

A pharmacist might recommend:

  • calamine lotion
  • antihistamine tablets
  • hydrocortisone cream – though not for children under 10 or pregnant women as they need to get advice from a doctor before using this treatment

You should see a GP if:

  • the rash does not improve after a few days
  • your baby has a rash and you’re worried
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