This article has been reproduced by kind permission of The Mail on Sunday YOU Magazine.
A reader from Northern Ireland asks for help with prickly heat. ‘For the last 15 years – I’m 54 – I’ve been troubled by prickly heat in warm weather, especially when it’s humid. I’ve just had my first outbreak this year. I ‘ve had outbreaks in the past on my shins, feet, armpits, upper arms and the back of my hands and fingers, in places both exposed and not exposed to the sun. Lots of tiny blisters appear and can grow to several millimetres across then form scabs. An outbreak can last five days or more, and takes about two weeks to heal.’
According to NHS Direct, prickly heat is an itchy red rash that often causes a stinging or prickly sensation. It can occur anywhere on your body, but most commonly on areas covered by clothing. It usually appears when you perspire excessively, so is most likely to affect people who are overweight, or sweat easily anyway, and, of course, if you’re in a hot, humid climate. Babies and children are more prone to it because their sweat glands are not fully developed.
The cause is that the dead skin and bacteria that live on the skin’s surface collect and block the sweat glands, trapping the sweat in tiny swollen pockets or blisters. The blocked sweat then tends to seep into the nearby tissues irritating the skin and causing rashes. Although it’s generally a summer problem, prickly heat can happen in the winter too, usually because people pile on clothes and then perspire. Another cause is a photochemical reaction to UV-rays hitting the skin, which can result in the production of compounds in the bloodstream that cause inflammation of the skin.
The reader wonders whether a food intolerance could cause it, but although food intolerance (or allergy) is a wellknown cause of skin problems (including eczema and urticaria), the rash is usually temporary, over in a matter of hours or a day rather than weeks.
Every year, pharmacist Shabir Daya receives pleas for help with prickly heat; this is his advice:
- A high SPF sunscreen will help to protect the skin but do ensure that it is non-comedogenic (ie does not block the pores of the skin, so avoid anything with mineral oils). Also look for a product that is lightweight, and contains soothing ingredients such as aloe vera. Try iS Clinical SPF25 Sunscreen, £36 for 90ml or Green People Edelweiss Sun Lotion SPF25, £17.30 for 200ml.
- Try a topical aloe vera spray such as Aloe Vera Cooling Spray by Neals Yard, which contains aloe vera with nettle extracts; both are known to help heal skin rashes. £8.80 for 100 ml
- Antihistamines will help ease the itching, however they won’t unblock the pores and many brands may cause drowsiness; if you want to take a conventional product, try Zirtek Allergy Relief, £8.20 for 21 tablets (one daily), which should not cause drowsiness for the majority of users, according to the manufacturers. Or try stinging nettle extract, which contains quercetin, known to reduce the histamines (inflammatory compounds in the body) that cause rashes and itching. Stinging nettle extract doesn’t cause drowsiness and are safe for most people except for those taking diuretics. Stinging Nettles Root by Swanson, £14.95 for 120 capsules (dose 2-3 daily).
- Finally, since dead skin cells and bacteria are the causal factors, some people report positive benefits with gentle exfoliation of the whole body removing these dead skin cells. Try Exfoliating Face & Body Polish by Faith in Nature, £5.65 for 150ml.
Pump It Up!
We loved Shoetherapy’s super-supportive ballet pumps when they launched last year. This year they’re offering two new trend-led styles for summer – patent nude, and grey (faux) python. The special sole relieves back and joint pain and improves circulation in tired legs, and was developed ten years ago by a French orthopaedic doctor for nurses on their feet all day – and unlike other pumps you don’t feel every lump and bump in the pavement. Because they are more sturdy than a traditional pump, my tester could do her 20-minute walk home in them rather than trainers, and they only needed a little wearing in. Also suitable for pregnancy. Black and white leather, and (chic) nude patent £65, python £69 from shoetherapy.com
Blog of the week: crumbsfeedyourfamily.blogspot.com
This family food blog, written by young-ish working mums Lucy McDonald and her sister Claire was instantly popular with my mummy colleagues. Lucy and Claire ‘work, have friends, love food – and want our children to– and want a life! This limits the time to make our own pastry, peel potatoes or even grate cheese.’ The blog’s their bid for life/work/food balance, with simple recipes, brief ingredients lists and sneaky shortcuts to help parents cook tasty healthy food while keeping their sanity.