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Fight the Prickly Heat

Fight the heat, the sweat, and the Itch !

Children these days are amidst their summer vacation. They are enjoying sporty activities, holidaying, being pampered by grandparents and relishing appetizing mangoes. May their plans not be affected by the heat, the sweat released and the itch caused... 'prickly heat'!

'Prickly heat is also medically known as miliaria and it is a very simple condition and not a disease or disorder. Also, as a relief it is not at all contagious. So, don't worry, if any of your near or dear one's is suffering from miliaria, you don't have an increased risk of being infected. This condition is caused when the body reacts to the heat and humidity of summers in a tropical climate like in India.

Our skin is composed of many layers of cells. The outer most layer is called the epidermis. There are small pores on this epidermis which release sweat and sebum. Sweat is the water and salts released by the body after it performs work or physical exercise or in response to excessive heat. Since the body has to function rigorously to fight the excessive heat, more water is liberated in form of sweat in summers than in winters. Sebum is the oily secretion which is released from these outer pores as a result of normal body activities. That's why even if you're a housewife and remain home most of the time, still you need to wash your hair occasionally since it turns oily after a few days. This is not due to dust or pollution...but due to sebum.

In summers, the sweat released by the body is quite good enough to block the pores of the skin. Once the pores are blocked, the sweat and sebum are trapped inside and this results in a hindrance to further release the excessive salts and water of the body. Now he body fights back by a response of itching on the outer layer of the skin. This response is called 'inflammation'. As a result of the inflammatory response, the skin shows boils , red rashes or other similar physical appearance with a severe itch or needle like pinning sensation. This is 'prickly heat'. This condition can be further uncomfortable if bacteria like staphylococcus are also involved . Once the pores are blocked and hygienic conditions are not maintained in a humid environment, the bacteria starts thriving giving rise to worse symptoms. However, whatever be the severity, this is only a response of one's own body and is not a disease as stated earlier. Hence no medications are required to treat it. Infact even if nothing is applied on the affected area, normally the face, underarms, neck and back, after 3-4 days, the area will itself be treated.

Prevention is better than cure and it is always better to avoid uncomfortable situations. Hence, it is better to avoid prickly heat to affect your family and especially your dear children who may become very cranky in this itchy summer. Here are a few things which can help you keep prickly heat away...

1. Keep yourself well hydrated

2. Maintain room temperature of 25 degrees by an air conditioner or a well ventilated fan.

3. Take shower more than once to wash of the sweat.

4. Wear cotton clothes and avoid synthetic garments.

5. Avoid being in crowded places for long.

Unfortunately, there may be a few of our readers who are already experiencing prickly heat in their families. Here are a few home remedies to help them provide relief from the discomfort of prickly heat ...

• Take a dip in the bathtub with oatmeal powder atleast three to four times a day. Oatmeal is an antinflammatory agent which will relieve itching.

• A thick paste of gram flour should be applied repeatedly on the affected area and then allowed to dry. Then it should be washed off with cold water. This would remove the dead cells of the skin and thus clear off the epidermis.

• Ice cubes could be used to provide cool to the affected area.

• Neem (Margosa / Azadirachta Indica) leaves are a very good antiseptic. 20-25 leaves should be dried and ground to a powder, mixed with rose water and applied to the affected area. This would avoid further deterioration and prevent further recurrence.

• Chamomile, Sandalwood and multani mitti are a few other cooling agents which could provide when applied to the affected area in form of a paste with water or rose water.

• It is important to avoid contact with oil and oily preparation since the oil could block the pores again.

So, go ahead, enjoy the summer without the hitch of itch!!

Puneet Aggarwal is a contributor at the Natural Health Blog. For more tips on how to improve your health using natural therapy, Ayurveda and herbs, please log on to :