Prickly heat, or miliaria, is an inflammatory skin derangement affecting the sweat-glands.
Prickling, stinging, and itching of the skin. Hot weather has but little to do with it. Neglect of the care of the skin allows the pores to close, and when the weather becomes warm there is usually more thirst than in cool weather. Drinking raises the blood-pressure, favoring perspiration; and when perspiration cannot pass through the pores of the surface, it produces irritation through a filling-up of the sweat-glands, causing pressure on nerve filaments. This brings on a stinging, prickling, and itching. Those who have deranged digestion--those troubled with gastro-intestinal catarrh--create an acute irritation of the stomach from ice-cream, excessive fruit-eating, etc. This irritation is reflected to the surface of the body, and produces abnormal contraction of the sweat-glands.
I have noticed in these cases that there is always a good deal of nervousness, the function of the skin is interfered with, and anything that creates an extra amount of heat at the surface will cause itching, prickling, and burning. The patient feels very uncomfortable.
Prickly heat in children indicates that the child is overfed; and the same is true of grown people. We never have any skin derangements whatever unless there is chronic gastro-intestinal catarrh. Long-continued heat, as in summer time, further enervates the enervated, weakening the power of digestion, and turning loose morbid functional derangements in keeping with predispositions. Add to this imprudent eating an excessive amount of fruit, ice-cream, or iced drinks, or an excessive amount of food of any kind, and in the nervous, neurotic, or gouty subjects various kinds of skin irritations will result. If the irritations are of the mucous membrane, intestinal derangements appear. I look upon prickly heat as a decidedly nervous derangement.
A fast of one, two, or three days, with daily bathing in water as hot as can be borne, will bring relief sooner than any other treatment. Bathing the surface with lotions, ointments, or the usual palliative surface treatment is neither logical nor sensible. The pores should be kept open, instead of being filled up with salves or forced to contract by so-called soothing lotions. The bath opens the pores, and the fast relieves the irritations of the stomach and bowels. It does not require a very great deal of time to bring full relief. If palliation is all that is desired, this treatment can end as all palliative treatment ends, and with the priests of healing flattering themselves that they have performed a cure. But this so-called disease points to a constitutional derangement that should be looked after; for it may manifest itself in various ways when the weather becomes cool. Bronchial irritation or pneumonia may be the price paid for neglect of correction of the constitutional derangement.
The reader must not forget that enervation, checked elimination, with retention of toxins in the blood, is the basic cause of all the ills that man is heir to; hence it is necessary, when eating is begun after relief is secured, to feed very lightly and very plain food.
The child can have a glass of milk for breakfast, and a salad at noon. If he is too young to masticate the salad well, it should be run through the vegetable mill. A teacup of the ground salad will make the noon meal, and prunes or baked apples, with cream dressing, the evening meal. As the child improves, he can be given toasted bread, with a little unsalted butter, for breakfast, followed with a half-dozen prunes, dressed with a little cream. If not satisfied, follow with a cup of hot water, a little cream, and a lump of sugar. At noon, have a slice of whole-wheat bread, toasted, the same as for breakfast, followed with ground salad. In the evening, prunes or baked apples, or any fresh fruit, followed with milk. After this, feed according to the instructions found elsewhere.