Prickly heat -- or miliaria rubra -- is a red, itchy skin irritation caused by excessive perspiration blocking your sweat glands. It is triggered by hot, humid weather, and by dressing too warmly. Infants are particularly susceptible. Prickly heat is not serious but it is a warning that you need to cool down. Continued overheating could lead to heat exhaustion and to potentially life-threatening heat stroke. Move immediately to a cool place, and remove excess clothing. Cold compresses may also help. Herbalists recommend aloe vera gel to soothe prickly heat. Ask your doctor before using it.
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Prickly Heat Features
Prickly heat, also called heat rash, shows up as small, red itchy bumps, which may sting, burn or itch. According to DrGreene.com, prickly heat can appear all over the body but is mostly likely to appear under a cap or visor on the forehead, in body folds, on the upper back and chest, and the arms. The itchy bumps can persist for two to three days. Conventional medical treatments for prickly heat include hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines. Prickly heat sometimes becomes infected. If this occurs, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Aloe Vera Traditional Uses
Aloe vera, botanically known as Aloe barbadensis, is a succulent plant native to Africa and found in Latin America, the Middle East and the southern United States. The gel from the long, fleshy leaves is used in herbal remedies and skin care products. According to Blue Shield Complementary and Alternative Health, the latex residue from aloe vera is ingested to treat constipation, while the leaf gel has been traditionally used to promote healing of minor burns, canker sores, psoriasis, sunburn and skin ulcers.
Constituents and Effects
Aloe vera is rich in natural substances that promote wound healing and can soothe skin. Herbal Legacy says that aloe vera gel contains salicylic acid, an aspirin-like compound with pain-relieving effects. Skin Care Guide specifically recommends aloe vera to treat prickly heat, saying that its antioxidant properties can help unblock pores, while its anthraquinones and sterols give it anti-inflammatory effects and its mannose and glucose promote healing. Saponins, soapy substances occurring naturally in aloe, have a cleansing and antiseptic effect and could help prevent a secondary infection from developing.
To use aloe vera gel to soothe prickly heat, simply snip a leaf from an aloe plant and drain out the clear, sticky fluid, then apply it to the affected area. To avoid stressing the plant, harvest the leaf of a mature, thriving aloe. BSCAH says that you can apply the gel three to five times a day. You can also buy stabilized aloe vera gel at pharmacies and health food stores.
According to BSCAH, aloe vera gel applied topically is generally safe, but allergic reactions have been reported. Apply a small amount of the gel to your wrist 24 hours before use to make sure you are not allergic. Naturopathy Digest characterizes topical aloe as safe as well but says that some people are allergic to it. If you experience redness or irritation, discontinue use and rinse the area with cool water.