Prickly Heat Rash – A Summer Hazard

Nothing is as sexy and empowering as a case of prickly heat rash when you are traveling! Last week I woke up one morning to itchy forearms covered in little red raised dots. The cause? Being a fair-skinned New Englander in a land of beautiful olive-toned Mediterraneans and experimenting with a new sun cream!

a forearm with a mild case of prickly heat rash which looks like little small raised bumps
Polka dots as a new summer skin trend or just a case of prickly heat rash?

Italy is amazing, Tuscany even more so. However, if you are a pale blonde with sensitive skin like myself and used to only a few random high heat days a year, you might find yourself cursing the beauty of the region when the sun beats down on you and you can’t find a shade tree or a breeze. You might also find yourself surprised that it is possible for it to be so hot that the tops of your knees are capable of sweating. Sometimes, even your sweat is sweating.

I love it here and it is the most relaxed I have felt in 5 months. I have been able to tackle my epic project of sorting thousands of photo files and I have been able to sit in my head and consider what the options are for the big question of “what next?”. However, even though I lived in Florida as a teen, the summer heat in Italy is difficult for me. It is thick and wraps around you like a heavy blanket, lulling you into afternoon naps and the occasional mental stupor.

What isn’t always relaxing, however, is the heat. Even though I lived in Florida as a teen, the summer heat in Italy is difficult for me. It is thick and wraps around you like a heavy blanket, lulling you into afternoon naps and the occasional mental stupor.

How I Turned Into a C+C Music Factory Song

Here is the sexy part of the picture… I’m historically not someone who sweats. I run 5ks in Boston and barely break a sweat. I do p90x, again, barely break a sweat. But you stick me in Montecatini Terme in July and I am a walking fountain of sweat. It’s gross. I’m not talking damp or dewy, I am talking full out sweat lodge.

So, what happens when you mix that craziness with sensitive skin and new sun creams? Prickly fucking heat rash. My arms feel like a braille text. If one of my friends read my arms, they would send an SOS that I need a hose or a pool or to be dunked in a bath of ice cubes, STAT.

What is Prickly Heat Rash?

So, what exactly is Prickly Heat Rash? Also called Miliaria, it is a rash of small red bumps that can appear anywhere on the body after sun and heat exposure. Infants and children are usually the most prone to developing it. Prickly Heat can be intensified by the use of sun creams or body lotions that block the pores. It can also develop in areas covered by ill-fitting or unbreathable clothing. It will typically go away on its own after a few days but it is best to limit sun and heat exposure while letting the rash subside.

In my case, it was a new unfamiliar sun cream that caused the prickly heat rash to develop. I’m sure the product is fine for the majority of people, but if you have hypersensitive skin, you may want to choose another product.

Picture shows packaging for Derma Sensitive Solari Sun Cream
Sensitive for some is not always sensitive for others!
How to Treat Prickly Heat Rash?

I used Aveeno Calamine Anti-Itch Cream and washed with AHAVA Moisturizing Sea Salt Soap often. The itching calmed down and the redness started to fade that first afternoon. I threw out the offending sun cream and asked the local pharmacist what they would recommend for hypersensitive skin. After looking at my forearms she picked me out a sun cream for allergy prone skin. I was happy that she had chosen something in the mid range cost wise, rather than automatically handing me one of the more expensive products.

*I did try to find an Amazon link for U.S. based readers to order this cream but was unsuccessful. Should you also have sensitive skin and rosacea, try to find Defence Sun for Hypersensitive Skin by BioNike. 
How to Avoid Prickly Heat Rash?

Aside from staying cool and dry, there isn’t a magic bullet to help you avoid it. If you are fair-skinned with sensitive skin and unfamiliar with the type of heat you’ll experience in the Mediterranean, you might develop Prickly Heat.

The best defense is exfoliating, using a sun cream for hypersensitive skin, and trying to keep as cool and dry as possible.

If you do develop it? Don’t despair, it goes away in a few days on its own.


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