Prickly heat or miliaria is a type of rash that develops when sweat is trapped under the skin. In the Philippines, we commonly refer to it as bungang araw.
Causes & Triggers
Normally, perspiration travels through tiny sweat ducts that bring it to the surface of the skin. According to experts, the ducts may narrow or clog up when you sweat profusely. When this happens, the sweat stays under the skin’s surface, causing itchy red bumps to appear.
The triggers below can cause excessive sweating and prickly heat or bungang araw:
- Hot and humid weather (especially during summer)
- Lots of physical activity
- Warm or tight clothing
- Health conditions with fever
- Wearing bandages
- Wearing medicine patches
- Medical conditions that cause sweating, such as hyperhidrosis
- Ointments and other skincare products that can block sweat ducts
Signs & Symptoms
When you have prickly heat or bungang araw, you may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Tiny pink or red bumps or spots
- A prickly, itchy feeling on the skin
- Mild swelling and redness in the affected area
- Rashes of small water blisters
The prickly heat rash can appear anywhere in the body, but they are more common in places where sweat collects, such as the armpits, under the breast, chest, back, crooks of elbow, knees, and waist. In babies, bungang araw is common in the skin folds, nappy area, and face.
When to see a doctor
People do not usually go to the doctor for a prickly heat rash since home remedies are often enough to manage the condition. However, if you experience excessive itching, consult your doctor for the appropriate treatment.
Additionally, seek medical help if you notice the following symptoms:
- The blisters have pus (nana) inside
- You have swollen lymph nodes
- You feel sick or unwell
- The rashes last for more than three days, even after home remedies
- The rashes appear to be redder, more swollen, and warmer
- You develop a fever
Treatment & Home Remedies
The best way to address a prickly heat rash is to avoid sweating. The home remedies for bungang araw include:
Keeping the skin cool
To keep the skin cool and avoid sweating, you can:
- Wear loose cotton clothing
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Use lightweight beddings
- Take cool showers or baths
- Spend as much time as possible in an air-conditioned or adequately ventilated room
Calming the prickly heat rash
To calm the itch, you can:
- Wrap a cold compress in a towel and place it on the skin for no more than 20 minutes
- Put a cool, damp towel over the irritated skin for 5 to 10 minutes (allow the skin to air-dry after)
- As much as possible, do not scratch
- Refrain from using strong skin products
If your bungang araw causes too much discomfort, you can always talk to your doctor about products that can ease the itchiness and swelling. Some of the skin products that can they can recommend are:
- Calamine lotion
- Antihistamine medications
- Low-strength hydrocortisone cream
- Prickly heat powder
Complications & Prevention
Although rare, clogged or narrowed sweat ducts can damage the sweat glands. When that happens, the glands might stop working and lead to a condition wherein you will no longer produce sweat (anhidrosis).
This causes problems with the body’s natural ability to cool itself through sweating. With anhidrosis, a person becomes more prone to overheating or hyperthermia.
To protect yourself from bungang araw, you can consider the following practices:
Dress appropriately for the weather. If it’s warm, avoid heavy, thick, and tight-fitting clothes. Wear cotton fabrics since they are light and let the skin breath.
Limit exposure to the sun. Stay indoors, especially when it’s hot. If you’re outside, stay in the shade and use a fan to reduce sweating.
Sleep in a cool area. If you find yourself waking up because it’s too hot, your bedroom may not be well-ventilated. Consider adjusting your fan speed and using lighter bed sheets.
Take cool showers frequently. You may need to shower or bathe more than once a day, especially during the summer. However, avoid excessive showering or bathing as it can strip the skin off of its protective moisture.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about excessive showering or bathing. Generally, if you notice that your skin is dry or flaky, taking frequent showers is not advisable.
Prickly heat happens because of clogged or narrowed sweat ducts. While it causes discomfort and itching, bungang araw typically clears within a few days. Home remedies include keeping your skin cool and calming the rash.
Learn more about Skin Health here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.