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Heat Rash, Prickly Skin,

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  • Heat Rash, Prickly Skin,

    Ok, for the last year or so I've been experiencing a painful sensation on my skin that feels like I'm being stuck with tiny needles. It started on my feet, ankles, and hands, and I thought it was just dry skin, but lotions didn't really help (even Eucerin), so I ruled that out. Since that time, it has steadily spread to my entire body, and is more intense. It happens when I get hot and lasts anywhere from a few seconds to up to 10 minutes, if I can't get to a cooler environment. Sometimes I would put the pain at an 8/10, and it's all over my body.

    From everything I've found online, it's called a few different things, heat rash, prickly heat, prickly skin, etc. I've also read a few different possible causes for it, but the most common, and the one that appears most consistent with my experience, is that my pores are clogged/constricted (chronically inflamed, perhaps?), which makes it hard for sweat to reach the surface when I start overheating. This somehow causes the sensation of the hell of 1,000 needles.

    My GP shrugged and said it wasn't a big deal and I could talk to an neurologist if I wanted. I wanted to slap him. I know it's not life-threatening, but an 8/10 pain for 10 minutes over 90% of my body IS a big deal. I'm getting pissed just writing about it, which is making me sweat... Serenity now...

    Anyway, all of that was preamble to this simple question: Has anyone else dealt with this, and has strict adherence to a Primal lifestyle helped at all?

  • #2
    Wow! This is new to me. Are you sure it's not just genetic, and your pores are too small? If it's clogged sebaceous glands, then I can tell you MY clogged pores are no more. I used to get grease rods that pushed their way out of my nose and face, long hard grease rods like blackheads. Since going Primal, I rarely get these, so I can vouch for positive changes in skin oil production. But, of course, I am not you. As for whether or not those changes will help your condition, I can emphatically suggest it's worth a try. Give it a month or two, the body takes it's time with changes like this.

    Here's a few oil guidelines that helped my skin:

    Get plenty of saturated fat, whether it's coconut oil or tallow, just make sure to eat some every day. Easiest way is to cook your veggies in it.
    Don't over-do the polyunsaturated oils. A few people get worse skin from taking fish oil, and you don't need to anyway. Eating some nice fatty salmon a few nights a week is more than enough.
    Monounsaturated oils seem to be neutral as long as they are coming from olives and avocados. Avoid olive oil unless you can prove it's real. Almost all olive oil is just soybean oil with lies on it. Soybean oil will destroy not only your skin but your arteries as well.

    Get plenty of herbs, teas and other bitter green things. These will reduce inflammation in your skin and *might* assist your glands or pores in opening.

    As a temporary measure since you probably don't know whether or not they cause you any trouble, drop nightshades. If you are susceptible to their alkaloids, you'll find out when you add them back in later.

    For now, I'd recommend (and I'm not a scientist or expert, just a person with experience) very rudimentary eating, almost boring, to control variables. Red meat, sat fat, some fish, liver, fowl if you want - might want to hold off on eggs even, unless you're sure they aren't a problem - cooked and/or raw greens depending on your views, sweet potatoes etc. As a short-term experiment, these foods are relatively complete nutritionally.

    Can't wait to see others' advice on this odd condition and hopes of rising above it. Hope it goes right for you!
    Crohn's, doing SCD


    • #3
      sounds like a nightshade allergy to me. skip tomatoes, peppers, etc for while.
      "If we’re not supposed to eat animals, how come they’re made out of meat?" - Tom Snyder, talk show host


      • #4
        I have suffered from this for YEARS. I have spent hours upon hours researching this as well looking for solutions. I find it to be a very rare problem to the extent that you or I have it. I read of many people who get a "rash" in the sun and call it "unsightly" and are looking for help. When reading about it, I often think, "Who the f*** cares?? It's the pain that is so bad! I can deal with the rash!" I can't help but think that half of people complaining about this on the web are different than what you or I have?? I don't really get a rash. It's just PAIN - the thousands of needles as you call it. My husband researched it once, couldn't find much, but did find a random thread where cancer patients that had gone through radiation seem to go through it.

        In all of my research, I have found (pre-Paleo) that there seems to be no "cure" - not even something to ease the discomfort (if someone suggests aloe or oatmeal to me one more time, I might just punch them in the face). I have probably tried every single American OTC product for sunburn/sun protection and I have spent probably $1000 doing it. Thinking back, though, I do want to say that I have not seen a doctor about it. Maybe a dermatologist should be the next step? I just get so disheartened when they don't know though and I have researched the hell out of this - I feel like someone would have posted it on the web by now if doctors really knew (I don't have high opinions of doctors).

        And you are right about the pain. It has had a mentally scarring effect on me the 3 times it has happened. I find too that it seems to get worse as I age. The first time it happened to me I was about 14. I stayed out in the sun all day, got very sunburned and the next day. . .It. Was. Living. Hell. I will never forget that day for the rest of my life! Even my sister seems to be emotionally scarred from that incident. To this day, I don't understand why I didn't end up in the emergency room? The only way I could stop the pain was to submerge myself in water. I was in agony for 2+ days (but the second day was by far better).

        The second incident happened about 10 years ago. I was 23. I was covered up except for my arms. The sun felt so good! I will always remember that. I got slightly pink on my arms and two days later went through the same thing. The pain was again excruciating (it was only on my arms too!) and my marriage almost ended up in a divorce over it as my husband had no idea what was wrong with me and we got into a huge screaming match (to any bystander, it looks like no big deal and most people just don't get it). The last two-three times it has happened to me was when I was out in the sun only a short time. And once it happened on my back even though I was covered?? I noticed it just the other day too while I was working indoors. I find my pores on my back almost "catch on fire" when I get hot now - but its only when I break a sweat and it is similar to a hot flash. Whenever it happens, I stop what I'm doing and go cool off immediately. It sucks. I rarely sweat because of it. And it is only on certain parts of my body where I have the pain - upper thighs, lower back (mostly), and upper arms. Even though I haven't been in the sun. Now when I get remnants of the pain when I overheat, I get very scared. I have some emergency painkillers in the cabinet that will knock me out if it ever comes on strong again. Yes, it is that bad.

        Currently, I avoid the sun like the plague. I rarely go out in the sun and when I do I only stay out for maybe 10 to 15 minutes at a time. I have found that sunscreen almost exacerbates the problem because it does the pore clogging (or that is what I've been lead to believe through all of my reading???).

        Last year, I was determined to figure this all out. I was sick of spending my life indoors. I found one thread where a bunch of people all seemed to congregate with similar stories of the pain and lots of people had different ideas (Best way to prevent prickly heat syndrome ? - Maldives Message Board - TripAdvisor): Aloe, Betacarotine, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, mild tanning in a tanning bed to "condition" the skin, 4 different products from Europe specifically to treat prickly heat, and a ton of different high-end tanning lotions. I tried them all. Nothing worked and, in fact, I was in COMPLETE misery from the tanning bed.

        It's crazy you posted this thread! I was just thinking today that I had to go search for this topic on MDA to see if someone has figured out if it is a vitamin deficiency. I thought maybe it had something to do with melatonin?? (No idea. I haven't researched this much.) I find that I do not have the ability to tan - I stay pretty white at all times (although I did tan as a kid - I could get very brown).

        There is one "cure" I have found in my reading but it is not for the long-term and you are going to hate it. Prednisone - which is a prescription steroid. I have read that a lot of people say that just a low dose of it (5mg?) while you are in the sun will keep you from having the pain. But finding a doctor that knows what this condition is, the extreme amount of pain it can cause and then prescribing the steroid seems hard. I have not done this as we didn't go on vacation last year, but this year I was contemplating asking my doctor for it. That said, steroids are no joke and even if I did get the Rx, I worry it would mess me up for awhile. Especially now, since I am so in tune with my body.

        I have just started Paleo. I was hoping the Paleo might cure me.

        As summer comes, I get sad thinking about how I miss out and am so scared of the sun. People look at me weird because I keep so covered up when I do go out.

        I haven't tried avoiding nightshades. I might have to do this. I will try ANYTHING.
        Last edited by wthiswrongwithme; 03-19-2012, 06:56 PM.


        • #5
          I just had the most exciting discovery!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am 34 years old and have been dealing with this since I was 13/14 - so TWENTY YEARS! And I think I just found the answer??? We are allergic to vitamin D??

          Here's what happened: based on all of my reading on MDA, I have been switching around my supplements (just in general). So today, coincidentally, I took Vitamin D3 for the first time ever (that I know of) - 10,000IU - and I totally brought on prickly heat!!!! Totally freaked me out!!!! It was pretty painful. My eyes were crazy dilated and I turned COMPLETELY red (I looked like I had a horrible sunburn) all over my body. This lasted for a good hour.

          So I started googling this and I am finding that it is a semi-common event with women. From what I've read, I see tons of complaints but no answers. I did find two good suggestions: 1. try taking it with k2 or 2. try titrating up with the dose.

          Just wondering if anyone here has any advice or experience with this?
          Last edited by wthiswrongwithme; 03-21-2012, 07:16 PM.


          • #6
            Awesome, thanks for all the responses! I'm gonna get all scientific method on my @$$ and try out these suggestions. Nightshades, vitamin D. First I need to do a strict 21 day challenge, at least. I'll avoid nightshades during that time as well.

            WTH, thanks for sharing your experience. Aside from the really major episodes, do you get the needles like every day? For me it doesn't seem to correlate with direct exposure to sunlight, but is dependent solely on temperature. Since I posted my original post, I've tried a few things and actually had some success, but none of it has been diet related, since I haven't tried those suggestions yet. Here's what I've been doing:

            Exfoliating - I use this sugar scrub in the shower and exfoliate the hell out my skin.
            Steaming - Then I let the shower run super hot without the vent fan on in the bathroom so it turns into a poor man's sauna. I can actually sweat when I do this.
            Eucerin - I then smear myself with gobs of Eucerin creme. It has to be the cream, not the lotion.

            I do those things like 3 times a week, and on the days I do it, I get minor pricklies, but I don't get the major pain. And I actually had one blessed day where I sweat profusely (for me) and felt cool all day. It was amazing. I'd forgotten what a good clean, cooling sweat feels like.

            The other thing I've been doing is working out more regularly. I've found that if I do the skin stuff, when I work out I have a few uncomfortable minutes of needles, but then the sweat "breaks through" (I don't know how else to describe it). It seems like if I make myself sweat for a few minutes every day, it's easier to start sweating, and I don't have as much pain.

            I'm glad these things are helping, but I'm not satisfied. I feel like the skin care stuff is more for treating the symptoms rather than the cause. Ever since I started learning about the Primal lifestyle, I've suspected that inflammation could be an underlying cause to my skin issues. I've always had sensitive skin that would swell up into welts from even the mildest scratches. So I'm expecting to see results as I get really strict on my Primal eating. Until now I've just been slowly incorporating the concepts without really devoting myself to following them.

            Thanks again for all y'all's posts and I'm looking forward to anything else anyone has to share. I'll keep updating this as I discover new things.


            • #7
              I dont know if this will help you guys. But it might. Skin issues are usually connected to the gut, but I'm not sure about this one. You might even want to do a consult with Chris to see if he has any ideas.

              Primal since March 2011

              Female/29 years old/5' 1"/130ish lbs


              • #8
                Hi! Thanks for the reply. This "condition" is really the only problem I have and in the summer it consumes me, so I am really excited to start experimenting again. I kept researching last night and I feel I have more to research now because I've been researching "Vitamin D and Allergies" now.

                I found one guy on a messageboard last night that had an exciting hypothesis. He said he would get the rash when he went outside if he hadn't been outside for awhile. So he found that if he spent a good year indoors and then tried to go out, his skin would break out in the rash. I can relate, obviously, as I rarely go out in the sun. So last night I quickly made a lab appointment for a Vitamin D test. I just took it a few hours ago and now I'm just waiting. My guess is that it is going to be a really really low number. I also ordered a lower dosage of Vitamin D, so I'm going to see if I can start taking a smaller dose and increase it over time.

                Also, this morning coming to work (I have a 30 minute commute), I rolled all the windows down and opened the sunroof. I never noticed before, but my sunroof is tinted. So I opened it this time. Sure enough, 4 hours later I start getting the allergic reaction to the exposure. Just thought that was interesting. I end up with this allergic reaction where I feel cold and hot all at the same time.

                As for how I think this is related to prickly heat. . .this is how it works for me:
                The prickly heat comes about if I get hot AFTER getting these allergic reactions. When I get these reactions it *seems* like sunburn. I come inside after being in the sun for 20 minutes and I will be really really red on my face, arms, back and thighs. But then that fades quickly except for these red bumps (they look like goosebumps but are really really red). So if I stay cool, I am fine. But if I were to go outside right now and break a sweat, the pain would start. This is common for me in the summer to get the pain a lot, so I tend to stay cool at all times. I'm not sure at what point I can get hot again and be fine. In the winter, I exercise downstairs in my basement and I'm fine. I can sweat fine. But even just the other day cleaning house, I started to get the prickly heat feeling and I felt like I hadn't even been out in the sun in over 4 months!

                Do you notice the pain comes when you get hot? Or at other times too?

                I am excited about your 3-step process! I am going to try this this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes. I can't imagine sweating outside! It has been a long time since I've done that! And I agree on symtom/cause thing. I want to find the cause as well because this stuff is such a PITA.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by activia View Post
                  I dont know if this will help you guys. But it might. Skin issues are usually connected to the gut, but I'm not sure about this one. You might even want to do a consult with Chris to see if he has any ideas.

                  Naturally Get Rid Of Acne By Fixing Your Gut
                  Oh wow! Thank you! I didn't even know people like this existed. I will have to try it if I can't figure it out myself.


                  • #10
                    Yes he is pretty amazing, I dont think there are that many with his level of knowledge... he is my new paleo masia lol

                    Let me know if you find anything because I have a friend that has this problem too. She isnt primal I never really gave it a thought before I saw this thread.
                    Primal since March 2011

                    Female/29 years old/5' 1"/130ish lbs


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wthiswrongwithme View Post
                      Oh wow! Thank you! I didn't even know people like this existed. I will have to try it if I can't figure it out myself.
                      He does Skype Consults I know
                      Primal since March 2011

                      Female/29 years old/5' 1"/130ish lbs


                      • #12
                        For me, it just hits when I get hot. It could be that I'm exerting myself, the room gets hot, or even if I get nervous or stressed. So perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it comes whenever I start to sweat. I only have visuals signs, like redness, when it gets really bad. The worst episode I've had was during our company chili cook-off a few weeks ago. The room was packed, it was already hot in there, and then I went and ate something called Chernobyl Chili. *Facepalm* I had about 10 minutes of excruciating pain across my entire body, and it wasn't cold outside that day so I couldn't even escape the building for relief.

                        I've also found that I can make it worse by losing control of my emotions when it happens. Sometimes I get so pissed off and frustrated because it hurts pretty bad, and that creates a downward spiral and makes it hurt worse. If I can take some deep breaths and try to stay calm through the worst of the pain, it usually doesn't get unbearable.

                        Thanks for that link. I'm going to check it out.


                        • #13
                          i live in the uk and get prickly heat every summer and used to just put up with it, dr said theres nothing that can help so i searched online and saw about aloe vera gel i swear to god it completly stops my hands from getting it now, just make sure to put it on and after the sun, i alsao read somewher that prickly heat can be an unerlying problem from manic depression, but i doubt that in your case


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by helspasco View Post
                            i live in the uk and get prickly heat every summer and used to just put up with it, dr said theres nothing that can help so i searched online and saw about aloe vera gel i swear to god it completly stops my hands from getting it now, just make sure to put it on and after the sun, i alsao read somewher that prickly heat can be an unerlying problem from manic depression, but i doubt that in your case
                            Thanks for the response. The aloe hasn't worked for me in the past, but I haven't tried it in 10+ years so I may have to try again.

                            I actually have had 'some' success in the past year or so with this. I found out after a Vitamin D test that my level was at a 14. So I started working really hard to bring that up. In the beginning I couldn't take a ton of vitamin D or it would bring on the prickly heat feeling, I also couldn't eat pork as the fat in the pork is known to have high amounts of vitamin D and was causing the same reaction (a reaction that also brings on intense anxiety in me, no wonder I was getting so nervous). However, now I can take 10,000IUs and do okay (previously, I could only do about 6,000 IUs).

                            I think I have also figured out that what I am calling "prickly heat" may in fact just be a hot flash. I'm 37, so I shouldn't be getting hot flashes I don't think, but I happened to read some a post where some women were talking about hot flashes and I was shocked at the similarities in the symptoms.

                            After slowly titrating up the Vitamin D, I got my levels up to a 65 and did notice I could go out in the sun and stay out. I haven't been diligent about taking it though and I know my levels have backed down some.

                            Just in the past month, we went to an island and I stayed out in the sun for several hours. Even with heavy doses of sunscreen, I still burned but never once got prickly heat unless I also overheated (this happened twice for a period of 10-20 seconds both times). Coming home I was pretty nervous I was going to have another episode before the sunburn subsided - one I couldn't control through temperature and would be torture, but it never came. My husband and I were definitely high-fiving for the success.

                            I still feel frustrated that I burn so easily. Even with ample amounts of sunscreen, I got pretty burned and was miserable and nervous for the prickly heat the entire last half of my vacation.

                            I recently had read another thread where someone hypothesized it had to do with a T4->T3 conversion which would make sense as I do seem to have thyroid problems. However, taking thyroid hasn't helped me much...instead I got intense sugar cravings and finally stopped taking thyroid meds.

                            That's all I've gathered over the past year. Just wanted to update this thread.