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Sense and Sensitivity

How to stop prickly heat and heat rash from ruining your summer

June 8th 2021 / Judy Johnson Google+ Judy Johnson / 44 comments


If heat rash is making life a living hell, read on for the experts' (and sufferers') advice on what causes prickly heat, how to get rid of heat rash and how to keep your cool with these remedies and treatments

I don't do well in hot weather. Prickly heat, heat rash or 'sweat rash' as it might be known (not to be confused with polymorphic light eruption or PLE - see below) has plagued me, on and off, for as long as I can remember. Being sensitive, I'm always on the lookout for the beginnings of rashes or reactions, but there's none I dread more than the early signs of heat rash - those little red spots that start to appear on my wrists and the folds of my forearms, which I know within hours will be right up to my shoulders. Sometimes it even starts at the top - the sides of my arms and on my chest - before appearing elsewhere. Nowhere is safe.

As a friend and fellow sufferer once said to me, "Once you look down and see it - you know that's it." It's spoiled many a holiday, or indeed many a sunny day that should be spent frolicking outdoors and soaking up the vitamin D (responsibly, of course; SPF always included). Itchy, sore and unsightly, it can make summer a living hell. But what causes it and is there any way to stop those spots from creeping up on us?

I asked the experts to find out once and for all how to prevent heat rash and how to get rid of prickly heat if it's already made an appearance...

What is prickly heat?

"Prickly heat, heat rash or sweat rash are all names used for a condition called miliaria," explains Dr Stefanie Williams, Dermatologist and Medical Director of Eudelo. "It occurs when sweat ducts get obstructed, sweat leaks into the skin and the skin gets inflamed around that tiny leakage. A prickly rash appears with red, very itchy little bumps (papules)."

The sweat ducts are blocked either by excessive sweating, or by an overgrowth of bacteria which normally lives on our skin, Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting tells me. "[This] leads to a sticky byproduct blocking up the delicate sweat ducts, trapping sweat under the skin. It's exacerbated if sweat is trapped and can't escape."

MORE GLOSS: The best sun creams for sensitive skin

Who suffers from prickly heat?

"It is very common (up to 30 per cent of people may develop this under certain conditions) and is most common in hot, humid climates," says Dr Williams. "Younger children are particularly at risk. Typical body areas are skin folds (or on the back if a patient is bed-bound). The risk of getting it can also be increased if you use heavy, occluding skincare.

“However, sometimes when people speak about a sweat rash, they might possibly mean a fungal infection in skin-on-skin areas such as the groins or under the breasts. The medical term for this is Intertrigo and it’s a common fungal yeast infection that occurs between the folds of your skin as a result of humidity, friction and a lack of ventilation. It usually shows up as a red, itchy rash on skin folds.”

You don’t have to have a history of prickly heat to get it, either - it can happen at any time if you’re in the right (or should I say wrong) conditions.

It's worth noting, though, that many people think they're suffering with heat rash when in fact they are reacting to sun cream - it took me years to realise the extra-bad itchy rashes I was experiencing on holidays were from the bottles of sun cream I'd been slathering on all week and the fragrances and chemical sun creams in them. So do check that this isn't the case first (see my guide to SPF for sensitive skin here).

Either way, I'd recommend a fragrance-free mineral SPF to minimise irritation if you're prone to sweat rash - and ideally a once a day, non-comedogenic formula like Ultrasun, £19, so you're not contributing to the root cause with top-ups throughout the day.

What is PLE?

Rashes are characteristically hard to diagnose, and though less likely than heat rash it could be that you’re suffering with a sun allergy or polymorphic light eruption (PLE).

Dr Williams explains: “They can look quite similar, but while heat rash occurs mostly in occluded skin areas prone to sweating, PLE occurs on skin that has been exposed to the sun recently (but traditionally might be covered with clothing, so isn’t ‘used’ to the sun).”

So what causes it? “PLE is a common form of a reaction to UV light that often occurs in young women in spring and summer (or at the start of a sunny holiday). The name ‘polymorphic’ refers to the fact that the rash can appear in many different shapes or forms, although in one person it usually looks the same every time it appears. The arms, the chest and lower legs/feet may be affected. The face is usually spared (as it tends to be more ‘hardened’ to sun light). The commonest form of PLE presents as crops of itchy, 2–5 mm pinkish ‘bumps’. In some people tiny blisters may occur. PLE persists for some days (or longer if the affected skin is exposed to more sunlight) before spontaneously resolving without scarring.”

Unless you can get your skin used to the sun slowly and gradually throughout the seasons, it’s likely you’ll suffer from it every year. Treating PLE is a case of using steroid creams or oral steroids if it occurs, or preventing it using specialised UV machines to ‘harden up’ the skin and prep it for exposure. “Most importantly, stay out of the sun, once you have it (until it’s fully gone),” says Dr Williams. “Antihistamines can help with the itch too.”

MORE GLOSS: The ultimate guide to buying SPF for sensitive skin

How can you prevent prickly heat rash?

The million dollar question. Given that the cause is the body's natural response to the heat, it's very difficult to manage which is no doubt why it causes so much stress to so many people. The key thing here is to keep your cool; easier said than done in heat waves but essential to keep those little bumps at bay.

"Prevention includes, most importantly, to avoid sweating as much as possible. Even if you manage this for only a few hours per day (e.g. an air-conditioned office), this already helps," explains Dr Williams. "Also avoid over-dressing, occlusive clothes (wear breathable clothing e.g. light cotton) and friction/rubbing from clothes. Furthermore you should avoid any irritation of the skin (e.g. excessive soap etc.)"

MORE GLOSS: The products you need on standby for skin reactions

It's of course a little harder to avoid hotter climes on holiday but there are ways to keep your skin as sweat-free as possible. "A dip in the pool or cool shower can stop sweating," explains Dr Bunting, "and avoid sticky skincare and sunscreens, which will have an occlusive effect on skin by trapping sweat." Check out our guide to preventing excessive sweating here, and my pick of the best sun creams for sensitive skin here - pick your formula carefully and you might just avoid it.

Supplement wise, try Nettle Leaf Extract by Solgar Vitamins, £19.75 for both the treatment and prevention of prickly heat. "Nettle is commonly used because of its ability to inhibit the release of histamine which is responsible for the prickly heat rash. Additionally, nettle leaf extracts are powerful diuretics helping to eliminate the compounds that are responsible for the inflammation of the sweat glands," says Shabir Daya, pharmacist and founder of online pharmacy Victoria Health.

Some readers have suggested (see the comments below) that using an anti-bacterial Dettol soap to wash with has helped them to keep the rashes away - but what’s the expert view on using such a harsh detergent on sensitive skin? I asked Dr Williams. “In this particular case, it might have worked, as the soap reduced the bacterial overgrowth on the skin, which in some cases can be involved in the genesis of prickly heat. Everybody is different, but it wouldn’t be a treatment I would recommend routinely.”

Knowing my own sensitivities, I was nervous to try it myself, but found that using the sensitive version on a recent holiday to Malta proved helpful in at least minimising the rash (though I also had everything else I usually rely on so it's difficult to attribute too much credit to one soap). If your skin is otherwise robust aside from heat rash, then it’s certainly worth a try. I bought a pack of six from Amazon here.

How to get rid of prickly heat

So you’ve tried your best, but the rash has still appeared. What to do? Well if prevention is difficult, treatment is a pain when it comes to prickly heat - everyone has their own answers but ultimately, it’s hard to get rid of once the rash begins.

Prepare yourself and you shouldn't have to suffer for too long. Here are my top five tips for curing it once you've got it.

1. Do NOT scratch

2. Take antihistamines up to two weeks before you go on holiday (check with your doctor first - your GP can also prescribe some) or as soon as you start to develop the rash

3. Shop for over the counter sprays and remedies (but with minimal ingredients - this is definitely a case of less is more. Fragrance has no place here). Odaban, £11.52 is an antiperspirant spray that's perfume-free and based on aluminium salt to reduce excess sweating; Magicool Plus Prickly Heat, £7.59 is a topical spray that cools the skin and is even prescribed on the NHS for moderate to severe cases and lastly Eau Thermale Avene's Thermal Spring Water Spray, £13, is a great handbag essential for calming skin on the go.

4. "Leave the area as open and ‘ventilated’ as possible," advises Dr Williams, and try "cold water compresses and calamine lotion plus a light emollient (as calamine on its own can dry the skin and irritate a little)." I love Care's Aqueous Calamine Cream, £2, which has fixed my heat rash every year I've had it - buy online or find in your local pharmacy.

5. Bathe it if needed in cool water. "If it's very itchy, try a colloidal oatmeal bath (try the Aveeno one, great for kids, or make your own oat bath at home with this guide) and use a mild topical steroid for a few days," adds Dr Bunting.

6. Shabir suggests trying Lemon Balm Cream by Granary Herbs, £9, which can be applied three or four times a day. "When applied topically lemon balm helps to soothe itchy inflamed skin as well as being a good first aid cream useful for sores and cuts," says Shabir. "Thyme Out, £18, is another good option as the tonic helps to reduce inflammation and calm your skin. The formula is also very good at treating acne, eczema and sunburn, so it’s worth investing in for the whole family."

MORE GLOSS: The best products for treating prickly heat

Join the conversation

  • Andros
  • August 5th 2017


I was suffering with this for the past 6 months essentially out of nowhere. it would usually come up if i got randomly hot (due to random anxiety) or when id go outside and it was hot out. Then it would go away after a few minutes. Regardless it was embarrasing and uncomfortable. Anyways like 2 weeks ago after using different lotions I found one that has been a god send. I got it from target for 1.99. When I use this I do not get any feeling of prickliness, or any marks on my face (it would be on my face). Its essentially a barrier necessary for me not to get the red smears on my face. I'll provide a link. I hope it works for you too!! I have sensitive skin so i was SUPER happy this worked for me. Anyways God bless.

  • claire
  • June 26th 2017

I think I have found the answer to mine, and it may work for you so thought I would share. 2 years ago I went for a facial fruit peel. The acid in it apparently dissolves dead skin cells. I have quite sensitive skin but this didn't affect it. I noticed a lack of prickly heat on my neck so decided last year to ask if they would do it on the top of my chest instead of just my face to see if unblocking my pores using this peel would help with prickly heat. It did!! I still had them on my back and around the edges of where she had put the cream so I knew it worked! This year I will be asking her to do the top of my back and shoulders too and hopefully will be completely prickle free! I don't know if cheaper versions will work but I darent risk it when I know this works for me but feel free to test the theory for me and share the results. I hope it works! X

  • Fran
  • June 19th 2017

From my last post, I am just back from Cyprus and this is the 2nd time I have been Prickly heat free,
I have never in my life had a rash free holiday and now I have had 2 on the trot and am so happy,
Once again using Eucerim 50 SPF Allergy sun gel, Its quite thick need a good shake but I will never go away without it and pray they dont stop selling it,
please do try it as I know how miserable this allergy is.

Show all (41)
  • annie
  • June 18th 2017

I suffered with prickly heat for the first time 2 years ago. Never ever before did I have the nasty little rash - despite being very fair skinned - so every year I find myself searching for new prevention tips. The first year I ended up at a Greek pharmacy where they gave my hydrocortisone cream, which didn't really do much apart from make me feel nauseas. Second year I came prepared having taken antihistamines two weeks prior - still no improvement and once again another holiday ruined. This year I researched into this all a crazy amount and found the dettol idea. The first few days of the holiday I was in the clear (it was around 29-30 degrees) but yesterday it arrived in full force. Nothing I can do seems to stop this plague of a rash and it's so unbelievebly frustrating as you all will know! If anyone has ANY other ideas then do post, as I am sick of this ruining every holiday I go on!

  • linda
  • June 9th 2017

Years ago I suffered from prickly heat which as people who suffer from it knows! One day I was talking in a salon and a lady told me to take vitamin E tablet daily, so I did and still do years later as it is good for you but the main thing is I have never suffered from prickly heat again! I lot can do with your sun tan lotion boots do a soltan sensitive for prickly allergies.

  • Nadine
  • June 6th 2017

Good piece and very timely! I'm in my 50s and have been sun-worshipping and loving the heat since I was in my teens. Apart from the odd burn caused by my own stupidity I have never had any adverse effects and certainly never had prickly heat. My husband and I live on a boat and have been in Portugal since late March where it has been getting gradually warmer; suddenly a few weeks ago I developed a rash on my bum cheeks, scalp (?!?) and down my sides and the itch is beyond anything I've ever experienced before! "Prickly" is RIGHT! It is actually making me feel permanently bad tempered and irritable and I would go so far as to describe it as torment. Those of you who have suffered from it a long time have my every sympathy, truly. I bought some antihistamine tablets which made me feel horribly drowsy and lethargic but haven't helped the itch at all. A pharmacist here sold me some Fenergan cream which has been equally ineffective. I fly back to the UK in 3 weeks' time for a couple of weeks, so will see my doctor then, but in the meantime this is a very helpful article with some ideas for me to try. And if anybody does happen to know of any Portuguese products I would be most grateful. Thanks.

  • Kirsten
  • May 9th 2017

I suffer really badly with it, to the point it hurts and blisters. I use P20, which seems ok but my 4 year old uses a child's suncream so as soon as he cuddles me I start with it. Im going to try the Dettol soap, can I just check it's the antibacterial original one not the sensitive one?
I'm also going to the doctors to see if they can prescribe anything prior to my holiday.
What aftersun do you find helps either prevent or ease it?
Thank you

  • kimberly
  • April 9th 2017

SO MUCH GRATITUDE for this article. for years since childhood i've suffered from heat rash / prickly heat.

in more recent adult years, i thought i had it under control via traditional chinese medicine's approach to food - that it was a result of heat inducing foods and activities. so in hot climes, while on vacation, i'd smoke, drink alcohol and eat shellfish and bbq chicken (which are particularly heat-inducing according to TCM), but found chocolate to be a major trigger. within a few hours of eating chocolate, it seemed quite immediate that a breakout would occur.

however, this past february, i was on a fasting detox, literally not eating anything. but, i did sit at the pool and roast under the hot thailand sun for a couple of hours each day with a book. the rash also started to form one day that i didn't put physical sunscreen on BEFORE going outside, i thought i could put it on once i got to the pool and was not out there longer than 15 minutes before the itching started. the rash started to form, and took over with a vengeance; first starting on the front part of my underarm crease, quickly spreading to my chest, neck and the entire length of my arms. because i had been fasting for more than 4 days at this point, i knew it was not diet related this time.

searching and searching the internet, i found this article, and an approach i hadn't considered - antibacterial soap. dettol was not available near me, but i did find a dusty old box, hidden at the very bottom of the neighborhood bodega of antibacterial soap. it was 'asepso' brand, and on the box read 'soap with antibacterial agent'. it ended up being a dark green bar soap, and impressed upon the cake soap were the words 'for prickly heat & skin infections'. it worked like a charm, and felt relief almost immediately after using it the first time. that afternoon after using it a second time, the inflammation and itchiness of the rash had dramatically reduced.

i used it at least 2-4x a day until rash went away. i would get the skin wet, lather it up, let it sit on the skin for a few minutes, rinse off (all the while using slightly warm water), and instantly pat dry gently, and fan dry the rest until all moisture had evaporated. i eventually got a bar of original formula dettol to use as well, but found that to smell strongly of ammonia and so i prefer the smell of the asepso.

i think the antibacterial soap worked because of the lack of natural defensive bacteria present on my skin, especially as i was fasting on this detox retreat; my body didn't have the antibodies it usually would have had i been exposing myself to them, ie, eating and adventuring.

in summary, i found these things to help the most:
- trying to keep with the TCM diet. i think it's a good preventative.
- make sure to put a physical SPF on the skin PRIOR to sun exposure. (physical spf reflects light/heat, chemical absorbs) and i agree, a light textured one may do better, but i've used thicker ones with no problems.
- once you get an inkling the rash is on its' way, keep cool by staying indoors, and keeping the skin as dry as possible. for me, cold wet compresses, aloe vera, any moisture on the skin aggravated the rash. fans pointed at my skin and caladine powder were great.
- once the rash manifests (and maybe even preventatively), start using an antibacterial soap by wetting the skin, foaming up, leaving it on the skin for a few minutes, rinsing off, gently towel drying then fan drying to get the skin completely dry ASAP
- no scratching, as this always made it worse, and spread
- i also would use muscle rub gels that had camphor (not ointments like tiger balm though, too thick + occlusive) to relieve itching
- something else that seemed to help dry up the rash when it was in a more moist phase was a powder i found in bali, called caladine. it stays on the skin very well, while other powders (including thailand's famous snake brand) would rub off immediately, rendering ineffective for keeping me dry. once the rash started phasing into the dry flaky stage though, i stopped using the powder and concentrated on the bar soap.
- and while in thailand, the detox clinic i was at gave me some wet bentonite clay. it was incredibly cooling, had a slight drying effect and immediately relieved the itching.

hope this helps someone else out there! this article was a definite lifesaver. thank you for the extensive research and broad perspective you put into this post. most i've read just said to stay cool and moisturize, the latter of which was the worst for me.

  • Scotch
  • December 17th 2016

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was on holiday in the Canaries for a fortnight when I developed prickly heat on my décolletage. I've had it before and many a holiday it's spoilt. I know not to take Ibuprofen, as that can aggravate it. I was taking anti-histamines for a couple of weeks before travelling and that didn't seem to help, but perhaps I need to be taking Piriton more regularly, rather than the one-a-day antihistamines.

I'd not heard about the Dettol soap theory and was willing to give it a try. Couldn't find any where we were staying, but I did have a Boots antibacterial handwash that I'd picked up in the airport. It had to be worth a try, didn't it? Well, let's just say that I was astonished to find that using the handwash several times during the day to wash the affected area really reduced my rash and made it comfortable to be out in the sun. Result!!

I've found some Dettol soap on my return to the UK (Home Bargains, a 3-pack) and have it in my holiday drawer for the next sunshine break.

I'll also consider some of the other tips as well. So glad I found this website when I searched for "prickly heat", it may well be a skin saver.

  • Elle
  • October 15th 2016

This blog is very useful and thank you all. I have just read that in Australia DETTOL antibacterial soap has been removed and replaced by a Dettol soap with different ingredients because the antibacterial agents in the soap are possible causing superbugs. I am rather dismayed at this as the soap has been so helpful for my heat rash. Apparently we are following suit after the US banned some of the chemicals eg; triclosan. This ban came in September 2016 and I notice on ebay the price of this soap has skyrocketed and is only available from overseas now. Does this mean PH sufferers have to look elsewhere for cheap and succesful relief?

  • Fran
  • September 14th 2016

After Years of suffering with this skin condition and dreading going on holidays as it makes my time away hell,
trying every cream, spray, Tablet ,Gel, nothing worked,
I can never go in the sea and not even staying under the umbrella stopped it, Then I read about Eucerin Sun Allergy Protection Cream Gel SPF50 and OMG I have just arrived back from Mallorca in 30cc sunshine after applying lashing off this cream before leaving my room I am rash FREE, this is the 1st time ever that I have come back to work and not had to cover my unsightly skin I even went in the sea at least 3 times a day on a Lilo making sure to keep my chest out of the salt water I didn't want to push my luck,
It may not work for everyone but Im am so excited about this product I will stock up, the test will be in Cyprus next year I will brave the swimming pool, Good Luck Its worth a go.

  • lauren
  • September 10th 2016

I have been plagued with ple for the last 6 years-10 holidays ruined even after various research and different methods I've had no success! Until now I'm just home from a week in Tenerife after reading this blog I decided I'd give dettol soap a go (was still sceptical after all it's a £1 bar of soap) I showered morning and night with it and bought Eucerine allergy sun cream specific to PLE too. I still kept my other few wee routines strongest antihistamine perceived by gp and three short sun beds the week before (which has helped symptoms on a past holiday)! The results were incredible I wish I could post the comparison picture I have of my hand from last year. Honestly give the soap a go even when I got a small amount of rash on my stomach after washing with it, it had total eased to nothing by next morning! Thanks so much to this blog- I go to Mexico in March for my honeymoon so this holiday was my last attempt to find something!

  • Matthew
  • September 4th 2016

Have to start by saying this article and comments saved my holiday! I'm in DR at the moment and had the worst flare up of prickly heat ever after 4 days here, I tried everything to get rid of it, even medicated soaps designed to ease the discomfort! After a few days of of pulling my hair out I managed to get some soap identical to dettol (dettol not available here) 3 days later, washing morning and evening, the rash has virtually gone even with me still using standard Piz Buin SPF 15 and enjoying the sun! Can not recommend the dettol soap enough (or one identical in ingredients) and a decent moisturiser.

  • Connor
  • September 3rd 2016

Has anyone tried having a few sessions in the sauna before going on holiday? As I have seen on the internet that prickly heat sufferers say that going in the sauna before going on holiday opens up the sweat pores so when they go in the sun or a hot climate their pores are fresh. I would like to know if this does actually work as I also suffer with prickly heat. I hope this method works...

  • Sharron
  • August 10th 2016

Sharron Allen August 10th 2016
After suffering prickly heat for many years and tried many remedies but nothing helped. I always took antihistamine before going on holiday and during my holiday but it never worked. I also used many different sun creams. Last year I used elemis’ tan accelerator before I went on holiday along with beta carotene vitamins from Holland and barret and it still came out but not as bad. This year I researched more on this site and took advice on sun tan lotions which were a godsend as for the first year ever I did not get prickly heat. I took the beta carotene vitamins two weeks before and during my two week holiday. I got a bar of anti bacterial dettol soap and showered with it in the morning then applied solbar thirsty sunscreen which was a factor30 and was alcohol gel based. I was out in the sun all day and only applied it a couple of times a day. After sunbathing I showered with the dettol soap and applied my aftersun which I always stick to aloe vera. I could not believe it no itch no spots what a difference. I bought two different recommended sun screens but the other was green people organic which I had to use at the end of my holiday as I run out of the solbar thirsty and felt it was too thick and would not rub in and I did feel a itch starting but after showering with the soap it calmed down so I would not recommend the green people sunscreen. I hope this helps others as it makes such a difference to your holiday.

  • Shannon
  • August 9th 2016

I have always, since travelling abroad (never really get it in the UK), remember suffered viciously with Prickly Heat... and this year on my 4th day into a 2 trip to Miami I was faced with the worst PH I've ever had!! I visited a pharmacy and they advised to get out of the sun ASAP or id be taking a trip to the docs (which I clearly didn't need on holiday!!). I spent the afternoon doing more research on how to avoid PH and to ease it when it occurs, when I read about sun cream being the main cause of PH due to the chemical content and the combination of that on your skin and the sun rays (*also, the higher the factor the more chemical are contained, so steer clear of 30+! ...Apparently if you use spray sun lotion, there are even more chemicals contained in it which allows it to be sprayed - so another one to avoid) So, out of sheer desperation I went back to the pharmacy the following morning and found a sun cream which was free of everything but what a sun cream should be - Hypoallergenic, Oil Free Zinc based, Broad Spectrum, fragrance free sun lotion in a factor 15 and literally within a DAY it was gone!! So the tip from me is BUY A OIL FREE sun cream with the extra sensitive seemed to work for me and I've ALWAYS been a sufferer. :D (Coppertone do one in factor 30 (so just on the border of being ok based on what I've said), and Hawaiian Tropic do an Oil Free factor 15.... perhaps see if they work for you... I'm looking forward to my next holiday now!!

  • jane
  • August 5th 2016

After an awful 4 days of prickly heat had nearly driven me to distraction and having unsuccessfully tried everything recommended mentioned on here my local pharmacist recommended Vitamin Dermina powder - I live in Malta and not sure if this is widely available elsewhere but I do know its avialable from Amazon and is only about 6 pounds - within half an hour the itch had gone and after several more applications throughout the day the rash which was pretty much all over me had disappeared completely. I would highly recommend anyone who suffers with PH to get some of this powder.

  • edwina
  • July 25th 2016

Thanks to all who've post on here as its really helped me as a new sufferer!

I've used the Dettol Soap twice a day followed by Aveeno Moisturiser Cream with colloidial oats as it doesn't block the pores and helps to keep dead skin reduced.

So far it's been great and a very easy routine to follow but for my next holiday I'll take antihistamines and sunbeds a few weeks prior just to be sure.

Fingers crossed!

  • Shafeeque
  • July 9th 2016

I have suffered from prickly heat many time. But this time it has appeared on my genital area. Inside buttocks a big rash. I used a cream and it vanished. 3 days before it appears again on my penis and around anal. when i touch it painful. On penis i can see its a redish color.

Its almost 3 month i am walking 30 minutes to my office and its very hot here nearly 45 deg.

Suggest me the best treatment or medicine.

  • sarah
  • July 8th 2016

So I live in the UK and I can't say we are having a particularly great summer... It's been raining a lot of the time but around about the 20degrees mark and I my chest has been covered in prickly heat for 3 weeks solid!!!
I have been to the doctors twice (for what it was worth) and they have given me prescription antihistamine and antibiotics, I am also using hydrocortisone cream! I am bathing every day and using e45 soaps! I am wearing lose clothing!
I am at the end of my teather... I can't sleep properly for itching, nothing is calming it down and it looks awful... After 3 constant weeks (with probably 2 days where it eased off a little) I don't know what to do.... Any help or advice would be amazing?
Do we agree dettol soap would be worth a go... Anyone had anything from the doctors that's helped?

  • mat
  • July 8th 2016

Typo below:

When I got to Spain I still had a few lumps but they didn't itch, I then used the P20 lotion as recommended & washed with DETTOL soap morning and night and the prickly heat did ***NOT***return. I was able to sit out in the sun for 5-6 hours a day without a problem :)

  • mat
  • July 8th 2016

I've suffered really badly with this for the last 5 years :(

Only started getting it when I was 35... Every holiday since was an absolute nightmare as all sufferers will know (Rash/Blisters & Itching).

I went on holiday in June and desperately wanted to avoid it... Did the research online, lots of trawling the web for cures & remidies so this was my plan:

Taking Citrazine (Anti histamine) for 3 weeks before
Using Elemis Tan Acc for 2 weeks before
5-6 Sunbeds from 4 mins rising to 8 mins
Using P20 suntan lotion (Factor 50/30 & 20).


Citrazine (Anti Histamine) was £5/$7
Tan Acc wasn't cheap (£65/$90 for 400ml)
Sunbeds (Approx £45/$60)
P20 was £17/$24 per bottle (3 Bottles).

3 days before my holiday we had a bit of nice weather (75 degrees - I live in the UK & 75 degs with sun is nice weather :) so I sat out in the sun for 30 mins without lotion.

Within an hour of me coming back indoors the itchin started and lumps appeared, I almost cried...

I re-read all the forums panicking as I was going in 3 days and 30 mins in the UK sun had brought the rash out so what chance did I have in the Spanish sun?!? The only thing I hadn't tried was DETTOL SOAP...

I'd seen it recommended above but didn't think a cheap bar of soap would fix the problem.

How wrong I was... Washed with it morning and night for the following 3 days and avoided the sun... The rash went down within 2 days & more importantly the itching stopped almost immediately.

When I got to Spain I still had a few lumps but they didn't itch, I then used the P20 lotion as recommended & washed with DETTOL soap morning and night and the prickly heat did return. I was able to sit out in the sun for 5-6 hours a day without a problem :)

I returned 7 days later with a deep golden tan, probably the brownest I've ever been, I'm blond so have always gone red before I eventually went a light shade of brown.

So DETTOL soap is the way forward...

The results were amazing.

Some comments on the 4 ways I tried to avoid:

Citrazine/Anti Histamine:

I've taken this alone on previous holidays and it's made no difference apart that it made me very drousy at night which I didn't like.

Elemis Tan Accelerator:

Yes it's expensive but I've never been so tanned so thumbs up for this.


I'm not a big fan of these but did give me a little colour before I went abroad.

P20 Lotion:

Although expensive compared to other lotions it seemed to work great, it's advertised as a once a day lotion but I applied twice sometimes three times just to be sure and had no problems.

It's available as a spray bottle or a nomal suntan lotion bottle, the spray bottle didn't work as well due to the lotion being quite dry, ie by the time you spray yourself and try to rub it in, it has already dried so you couldn't see where you'd covered and where you hadn't.

I also used a Prickly Heat Spray called 'Magicool Prickly Heat Spray' which worked very well on the rash in conjunction with the DETTOL soap when the rash appeared in the UK before I went on holiday.

To summarise:

DO NOT go out in the sun without lotion on, not even for 5 minutes, as soon as you burn in the slightest the rash will start to appear and it's a downhill slope from there, yes the soap is amazing but if you can avoid getting burn to start it makes it even better :)

Use Tan Accelerator if you like, it certainly improved my tan and smelt nice.

Definitely use DETTOL soap :))) It's amazing and I no longer dread going to sunny climates.

He's some links for the Soap and the Magicool in the States, this is a US site after all so would be rude to give all the info in £'s and UK websites :)))


Magicool Spray:

Apols for the long post, I just wanted to share the love for DETTOL soap and let fellow sufferers know the lengths I went to avoid the dreaded rash and the discomfort it brings :)))

Good luck, I hope it works for you...

  • kerry
  • July 3rd 2016

I have suffered with prickly heat all my life. Tried everything. On a recent holiday to Cyprus I brought P20. Not one spot and I had the best holiday laying in the sun without issue. P20 although expensive is simply brilliant. You also only need to put it on once in a morning. No burns, no sweating and more importantly no prickly heat.

  • ludhiya
  • July 2nd 2016

This summer was the most horrible summer of my life. I had prickles all over my neck and back like never before . I used many powders and creams , but none of them worked. and then i followed the methods above, and they started to reduce. Really, Thanks very much for the precious information .

  • jess
  • June 20th 2016

I have always suffered with prickly heat/heat rash. I'm currently sitting in the shade in Skiathos in tears as I am in so much pain with it! I have been taking antihistamines for weeks before I came and since arriving a week ago. I have been using dettol soap 3 times a day, I have been staying shaded as much as possible. I am using aloe Vera and allergy cream as well as allergy piz buin sunscreen. NOTHING HAS WORKED!! My arms, shoulders, back and chest are covered and I honestly can't quite describe the pain/burn I am experiencing. Meanwhile my boyfriend is lying happily in the sun enjoying our holiday. Honestly, any other suggestions would be amazing! :(

  • Lisa
  • June 9th 2016

I have loved all this advice and will definitely be buying some Dettol soap on the way home. One thing I thought I would add that has helped both myself and my mum is dry body brushing. The first time we realised this it was completely by accident. We were both at a day spa and the woman doing our massage body brushed us to within an inch of our life, it was actually a little painful. I was going on holiday the following day and no prickly heat that whole holiday. I mentioned it to my mum and it kind of made sense to remove any dead skin cells and that might aid in the sweat not being so easily trapped. So, she tried it and she too had less of a case of it than normal. I would suggest doing it for as long as you can before you go though, I think normal brushing for a couple of weeks works better than just doing it the day before (unless like the lady that gave me a massage you do it really harshly).

  • lynsey
  • June 5th 2016

Hi guys
I've suffered from sensitive skin and prickly heat for 16 plus years I also suffer from allergic reaction to chlorine. With all this in mind holidays can be a nightmare for me and my family due to being itchy not wanting to participate in activities in the water or the sun. I'm just after any best practices that anyone uses I'm at the end of my tether I've used aloe based products, antihistamines,different suntan lotions.
I'm definitely going to try the dettol soap which has been advised many thanks xx

  • Carmela
  • May 13th 2016

I have suffered from prickly heat for many many years and it has ruined many a holiday. In fact I'm currently in Cape Verde sitting in the hotel reception because of another bad dose of it. This time it's spread all over my legs, arms, back and chest. I could kick myself for not following what prevented it last holiday!
We arrived and the weather was cloudy although still very warm and I thought I'd be OK. By the second day the flare up had started!
As Dennis Finnegan (August 2015 comments) suggested, I believe it is a bacteria in the skin which reacts with heat.
A friend of mine who also suffers from this had read about the bacteria and DETTOL SOAP. I used DETTOL soap every morning and evening in the shower on our last holiday and can honestly say that it definitely kept the rash away. I couldn't believe the result and something so simple could prevent the rash! If anything I actually stayed out in the sun longer than usual just to see how much I could get away with it and a very very tiny rash had started but soon dissipated/kept under control by my vigilant use of DETTOL soap.
I've bought some with me on this holiday and having been caught out. I have started using it from yesterday and can see a result already. I don't think it'll completely go this time as it has very quickly spread like wildfire but staying out of the sun for a couple of days and DETTOL scrubbing and my usual antihistamines will see it calmed down tremendously I'm sure.
If I were to give any advice it would be using the soap morning and evening and an antihistamine for extra protection.
I have seen the doctor here this morning and she has also suggested getting a shot of Prednisolon BEFORE going on holiday next time
Really hope this helps you. I can only go on what has certainly worked for me.
On closing I just want to say I'm NEVER going to be slack on this preventative care regime again...lesson learnt !!
Happy rash free holidays everyone!

  • Sarah
  • May 11th 2016

I've suffered for year with Prickly Heat, I use Piriton antihistamines and Piz Buin Alleregy sun cream - If I take the Piriton for a few days before I go on holidays or if I know there is going to be good weather and use the sun cream and I dont get it at all. Once I stick to that

  • trudy
  • April 29th 2016

Well i have read the article about what ingredients to avoid for prickly heat but now i cant find a good one to use, i'm now confused,they all have the ingredients in there somewhere even the Alovera which is supposed to be natural. I have used piz buin,calypso and soltan.the calypso and piz buin gave me a rash on my legs,but no where else.The P20 and even Ladival from boots says it prevents prickly heat,but also has the ingredients in. Any ideas please??

  • cheryl
  • April 27th 2016

i have been a suffer of prickley heat for years and years there is absolutely nothing that will stop the preventing of prickly heat until i did my own experiment. I have taken tablets prescribed from the doctors also creams but to no avail nothing could prevent it, after the rash had appeared i put on all the creams to calm it down, but spraying myself with cool water was the only thing that calmed it down. THEN someone told me to have sun showers three weeks before my holiday(i know some people are against the use of these) but i gave it a go. I went for the very first sunshower and low and behold by prickly heat flared up just like i was in a hot climate(3mins only) then the next time i went which was four days later lathered myself with DETTOL soap and the rash came out again (3mins only) not as bad as the first. I repeated this for 3weeks and by the end of the 3weeks low and behold i only had a very small rash which i could live with. This prepped my skin ready for the hot climate, and i was able to enjoy my holiday without an unsightly red rash. I must say when you go out in that glorious sunshine, never spray perfume or wear any suncreams with perfume in them, and before you go out make sure you shower of the perfume from the night before and shower with DETTOL soap hope this helps because the sunshowers have helped me:):):)

  • Mike
  • April 5th 2016

I am fair-skinned and live in the tropics - in Bali. Heat is not a problem but when the humidity hits I ALWAYS suffer from itchy, uncomfortable prickly heat in my armpits. I have tried calamine lotion, mangos, etc., etc. Now I have found the cure for me - it might not be great for you but is certainly worth a try! It is a cream, Esperson Desoximetasone. For me, it is like magic. Within 36 hours I am cured - every time!

  • Pete
  • December 16th 2015

Hi all ...

As a long time prisoner of prickly heat I have been subjected to sitting in the shade or in some instances sat in my hotel, or villa due to the unbearable pain and discomfort. I have just experienced the worst out break of PH whilst on my honeymoon in the Maldives and was confined to my hotel room for 3 days straight. I had tried all of the suggested remedies but to no avail, until .... A french doctor who happened to over hear my wife's conversation with reception jumped in and kindly provided us with a pack of steroid tablets called PREDNISOLONE 20mg, which he recommended i take 4 tablets for the first two days and then gradually reduce the dosage (as i am a stockier build 96kg he suggested I take 80mg for the first two days then slowly reduce to 60, 40 etc.). Within a day the rash began to disappear and I could finally sit out in the sun without my PH flaring up. In addition to the tablets the resort doctor also provided me with a steroid based topical solution called BEPROGEL and a cream called H-CORT (basically Hydrocortisone) which i applied 2-3 times daily to ensure the PH didn't return.

What worked for me was undoubtedly the tablets, topical solution and the cream. Obviously consult your doctor before but I will now be telling my GP / Doc that the above are the only solution to a PH free holiday.

Hope this helps guys!

Happy Holidays

  • Beth
  • September 29th 2015

heat rash can be a bugger to get rid of but preventon is what I've found helps. Tan accelerator for prevention and sudocrem if it strikes.

  • Nicola
  • September 18th 2015

Thanks for the article and all the useful tips folk have provided - I've made a note of all the different products to try for next year's holiday. I first developed prickly heat when I was 27 prior to that I actually spent 5 years working overseas as a holiday rep and used ridiculous local tan creams that contained olive oil and lemon juice among other things (it was the early 90s and we weren't so safe skin aware!) I always used a low factor despite having fair skin and used to get a tan with no rashes. It seemed like the first time I developed it was when I finally started using a high factor sun cream and over the years I've tried all sorts of different creams for sensitive skin but nothing seems to work. I thought I had finally cracked it this year using Calypso once a day as it is a liquid and I thought it wouldn't block my pores the way the thicker creams do. Unfortunately around day 3 or 4 of my week long holiday the dreaded rash appeared on my chest, neck, tops of my arms and even strangely this time on my hands, feet and knees as well! It really ruins my holiday as I end up staying in the shade and covering up so to find something that will prevent it happening or at least keep it to a minimum would be wonderful. I'd love to know why I suddenly developed it after years of being ok in the sun but I guess I'll never know!

  • Denis
  • August 3rd 2015

I previously posted this on Channel 4's embarrassing bodies but it seems to be gone since so re-posting it here as I think it has helped a lot of people over the years and it has worked every years since...

I feel like we may have found the solution to my wife’s prickly heat and I want to share it with those looking for a solution, especially, when I didn’t see this posted anywhere during my searches.

She literally tried every preventative measure we could find and we tried every suggestion people gave us because everyone seems to think they know the answer. Truth be told, I’m sure a lot of these things worked for other people but not my wife.

So let’s do a quick run down on everything she tried:

Before we start, you can assume we did all the no brainer stuff like trying to keep cool, not pilling on the creams too much, not using cheap sun creams, showering before and after being in the sun and regular dips in the water and the rest, so assume all that and we’ll get to the suggestions for people who really have to struggle with this, bar the suggestion of staying out of the sun, that’s a pretty annoying suggestion, please don’t make it!

1) Hypo Allergenic Sun Creams: These were one of the first thing she tried this year and we brought Soltan and Piz Buin factor 15s and they did seem to help but like many of these things, there may have been a marginal improvement and it’s hard to attribute it to any of these things. Marginal though, still aint gona cut it for anyone who has had this.

2) Antihistamine Tablets: She started taking these 2 weeks before we went on holidays. It didn’t work last year and it didn’t work this year. I don’t think it made any difference at all!

3) Vitamin C: Ok so this one really seems like a bit of an old wives tale but she was willing to try anything so we gave it a go this year. Of course it did absolutely nothing, although at this stage, the marginal improvement we had this year before the final solution, as apposed to last year could be down to any of these.

4) Non Perfumed Toiletries: So this is a common one you hear, and who knows, maybe that is what causes it for some people. For my wife, taking non perfumed, shower gel, soap, shampoo etc. made no difference.

5) Exfoliating: she had a rough glove thing and used the non perfumed stuff I mentioned, literally nearly taking a layer of skin off with that thing did nothing either except make her raw and grumpyJ.

6) E45 Cream: I long held the believe that this was simply a case of blocked pores, so keeping them open and not blocking them up should be the key. This stuff sounded then ideal because you put it on a while before the sun cream and it’s supposed to open your pores. He presto right! No blocked pores after you put on your sun cream! Yup you guessed it, no workie and I really had my money on that one.

7) Bare Minerals Sun Block: So my wife uses “Bare Minerals” products for her skin and she has very soft delicate skin I guess you could say. So anyway she swears by their gear and loves their products. So she came across this makeup based powdered sun block and decided to give it a go, I suppose it was mainly to be used on the face but again, it seemed to totally make sense, if it was the creams blocking up the pores, surely this was the perfect solution. Nope, if anything she was worse after it.

So as we entered the final few days of the holiday, she was pretty down about it because in my mind, she really, really had tried pretty much everything this year and so it wasn’t until I was reading something on a web page that made me think. It mentioned how people who suffer from prickly heat or heat rash can have 3 times more of a bacterial called Staphylococcus epidermidis on their skin than those that don’t. We all have this, just seems people who get the rash have more. As it happened, we had a bar of Dettol soap, antibacterial soap with us. One of the many weapons in her arsenal and it occurred to me, if these bacteria could be part of the problem, could using the soap in heavy quantities help? So she tried this, lathering herself head to foot in heaps of the Dettol soap, I mean really pilling it on now before we put the sun cream on and headed out into the sun and low and behold, that evening when we got back to the room, no flare up. The second day did the same thing and that evening, npo flare up and the prickly heat from the rest of the week was nearly gone. Unfortunately, that was the last day of sun on the holiday and we had to head home the next day but we were pretty convinced that we had found the solution.

I should just mention that my wife focused primarily on prevention and we didn’t pay too much attention to treatment because at that stage, you are just peeing against the wind. So just in terms of treatment from earlier in the holiday, the Hydrocortisone Cream did nothing for her but she found the calamine lotion excellent for taking down the prickly heat rash in a matter of hours instead of days.

So there you go, solution, at least for my wife for the prevention of Prickly Heat Rash is simply:

Heavy Lathering of Antibacterial Soap in the shower before applying hypoallergenic sun cream and I think the antihistamine tablets and non perfumed toiletries might be no harm either.

I hope this helps someone else!

  • linzi
  • July 22nd 2015

One of my friends told me about a product from Holland and Barrett and it worked for me! It's called Quercetin (I think that's how you spell it) it was about £10/£11 and I took 2 capsules a day, a week before I went and whilst I was on holiday. (Bit like hirse pills mind you, quite large!) It worked for me, it worked for her husband. Maybe worth a try? Also make sure you don't spray any perfumes directly on your skin where you know you are likely to get prickly heat. Some said above wrists etc mine is usually my chest. Hope it helps some one else!

  • Jo
  • July 21st 2015

My friends and I have found much greater sun tolerance, and reduction in prickly heat, by using a tan accelerator 2 weeks before holidays or just by replacing body lotion in spring/summer.

  • Judy
  • July 20th 2015

@ Samanta - I wonder perhaps if this is urticaria? I'm not an expert on the condition but as you mention coffee (could be the drinking rather than the holding!) it might be worth looking into:

@Omar - I agree, it's frustrating but hard to find a cure as it is caused by sweat. But I do think water sprays are a good way to help with this - you can't shower constantly but at least you can keep the areas fresh, cool and clear of any sweat build up. I hope it's helped a little!

@Rebecca thanks so much for your comment and I agree wholeheartedly with all your product recommendations! But please please don't use sunbeds to prep your skin - there are safer ways and it's not worth the risk. Look into something like Imedeen supplements, I've heard nothing but good things about them in 'prepping' skin for holidays:

  • July 6th 2015

I've suffered with prickly heat since being young, over the years it has got progressively worse and really ruins a holiday! I have tried so many different products and there is nothing that will stop the rashes, luckily though I have finally found a routine and arsenal of products that keep it to a minimum. I take anti-histamines 3 weeks before I go away, these are prescribed by my GP. I also take HelioCare Ultra-D tablets alongside these (they increase the skins tolerance to the sun). I also use the sunbed 3 weeks before I go. Twice a week for 3mins to build up my resistance. When i'm away I use Piz Buin Allergy SPF 30. I started using this after reading it on a forum and it worked a treat. I have used P20 but had the worst break of prickly heat with this. Also avoid waterproof suncreams as they contain wax derivitives which sit on the skin and clog your pores! Dipping in the pool or cold showers through the day help me to stay cool but I always use MagiCool Plus Prickly heat, perfect if you are out and about on day trips. I wash with Dettol Antibacterial Sensitive soap which is unperfumed and doesn't irritate my skin. I then use Piz Buin Allergy Aftersun. If worse comes to worse and I do break out in a rash Benadryl Allergy Relief cream stops the itchiness and really reduces the ugly red inflammation I get. This sounds like a lot of products which were often told to avoid using, but it has helped me so much. It keeps the prickly heat at bay a lot longer, If I do break out the its very minimal. I'd love to say it stops prickly heat completely but I don't think anything does. Hope it helps!

  • omar
  • July 5th 2015

Good read and thanks for the tips.
What is really disappointing is wherever i look up heat rash treatments its never an actual, ultimate remedy / cure, all i get is advice on "avoiding" hot conditions. Which in my case is worse because i live in jot, humid country plus i recently started working out at the gym and my rash gets really irritating when i cardio. Really a let-down, ive been on antihistamine for about 20 days now but to no avail. Still looking forward for an actual cure.
I also wanted to add a couple of tips since its not mentioned here, stop smoking if you are a smoker and lose weight if you are overweight. Hopefully this will help.

  • catey
  • May 23rd 2015

Suffered with prickly heat for years

  • May 7th 2015

I ahev a heat rash that started 9 montsh ago meaning I break out when in contact with hot water, holding a cup of coffee and of course sun, treatment ideas?

  • Kerry
  • July 24th 2014

I find that using Elemis Tan Accelerator (amazing product!) really helps this from developing as well as Riemanns' P20. An old colleague recommended P20 before a trip to Corfu years ago so I used it every day, once a day, and only in the last day or two did any bumps start coming up and it was incredibly hot. I also avoid any tan oils as that makes it come up instantly.

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