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Baby Heat Rash: How To Treat and Prevent It

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Updated
Learn about heat rash in babies, the symptoms, how to treat heat rash, and more.

Does your baby have sensitive skin that is prone to rashes? Are you wondering if the rash is caused by the heat or something else?

Most babies are born with sensitive skin, so it’s not unlikely for your baby to develop a rash at some point in time. Rashes are usually harmless, but some could be the result of a potentially dangerous underlying condition for your baby.

It’s important you are able to identify what kind of rash your baby has so you can figure out the best way to treat it. We’ll help you do this by explaining the causes and describing the appearance of a baby heat rash. We’ll also provide you with a plan for preventing and treating baby heat rash and let you know when you should seek medical attention.


What is a Heat Rash?

Heat rash is sometimes referred to as summer rash or prickly heat. It is a rash that develops as an eruption of small bumps that may resemble blisters. If your baby has light skin, the bumps will appear red.

Anyone can develop a heat rash, but it is most common in babies. A baby heat rash occurs when your baby overheats. The rash is most commonly noticeable in the folds of the skin, on the chest, stomach, neck, and where the clothes fit tighter (1).

Heat Rash Symptoms

These are some of the symptoms that can help you determine if your little one’s rash is a heat rash.

  • Their head or neck is damp from sweat.
  • They have flushed cheeks.
  • They are more irritable and fussy than usual.
  • Their breathing is rapid.
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What Causes a Heat Rash?

A heat rash can occur when your baby has been profusely sweating, causing their pores to become clogged so they can’t release the sweat.

Heat rash is more popular among babies because their pores are much smaller, making them more likely to become clogged.

Heat rash is most common during the summer months when the temperatures or humidity levels are high.

Your baby may also experience a heat rash if they overheat from wearing too many layers of clothes or if they are running a fever.

Keep In Mind

Some babies wake up in their crib with a rash. If this happens, you may be over-bundling your little one. Remove some layers for their next sleep to see if the rash disappears.

Is a Heat Rash Dangerous?

A heat rash alone is not dangerous to your baby. It may be uncomfortable and cause itchiness but usually nothing more (2).

Heat rashes occur as a result of your baby being too hot, so you should take action to help lower your baby’s body temperature. If your baby is overheated for too long, it can lead to life-threatening complications, like a heat stroke.

Overheating at night has been proven to increase your baby’s chances of developing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Take extra precautions to ensure your baby is dressed appropriately and their room is at a comfortable temperature. If it is too hot for you, it is too hot for your baby (3).

When To Worry

As long as you make an effort to cool your baby down once you notice the heat rash, you shouldn’t have many other worries.

Heat rashes typically disappear on their own and have no negative side effects for your baby. However, there are rare cases where a heat rash can lead to other problems.

If you notice any of the following, you should immediately contact your doctor.

  • Pus-filled blisters.
  • Red streaks on the skin.
  • Fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Chills.
  • Skin peeling.
  • Redness of palms of hands.
  • Rash that does not blanch when touched.

How To Treat Heat Rash

The moment you realize your baby is suffering from a heat rash is the moment you should take action.

how to treat baby heat rash

  1. Start the Cool Down: Take your baby to a cooler place out of the sun, such as an air-conditioned room or a tree’s shade. A cool washcloth is a great way to bring the body temperature back to normal.
  2. Remove Clothing: You should take off your baby’s clothing, as it is likely restricting the skin and potentially worsening the rash.
  3. Keep the Skin Dry: After you have cooled your baby down, you need to make sure the skin is now dry. You can let your baby air dry. Don’t use a towel because it can irritate the rash further.
  4. Loose Clothing: Once your baby is cooled and it is time to re-dress them, you should choose loose-fitting clothing. Tight clothing will rub the rash and cause further irritation.
  5. No Scratching: It is difficult to stop a baby from scratching, but you should try to limit the opportunities your baby has to do so. If a blister opens, it can become infected. You should trim your baby’s fingernails to limit the chances of opening a blister.
  6. No Interventions: You should not apply creams or ointments to your baby’s rash unless directed by a doctor. Ointments and creams can aggravate a heat rash.

Ways To Prevent a Heat Rash

It is pretty easy to prevent baby heat rash (4).

  • Dress for comfort: Always make sure you dress your baby comfortably. If you are getting hot, chances are your baby is too. Weather-appropriate and loose-fitting clothing can help decrease the chances of your baby suffering from a heat rash.
  • Limit car rides in hot temperatures: A car seat has little to no ventilation, and your rear-facing babe isn’t receiving much of the air conditioning you are blasting. There is a high chance the sun is beating directly down on your baby too. You can purchase a car sun shade to help make the ride a little cooler. If you have to be in the car for a while, try to plan your trip for the morning.
  • Stay out of the sun: If you know it will be a super hot day, you should probably try to find an indoor activity. If you have to be outside, find a nice shaded area, or put a sun hat on your baby to help them stay cool.
  • Hydration: Your baby can overheat much quicker if they are not adequately hydrated. Ensure your baby is getting enough milk, or give them water if they are old enough.
  • Frequently check in: You should frequently check your baby’s skin to make sure it isn’t damp, significantly warm to the touch, or turning pink. If you think your baby is starting to overheat, you can use a cool washcloth to help bring their body temperature back down. Pay special attention to the neck, underarms, and behind the legs.
  • Nighttime prevention: If you notice your baby becomes too warm at night, you can opt for short-sleeved pajamas. You could consider running a fan in your baby’s room at night. You shouldn’t point it directly at your baby but just in the room to help keep the air circulating.

Should You See a Doctor?

Most heat rashes do not require a doctor visit, but you are more than welcome to schedule an appointment to verify it is indeed a heat rash.

Your doctor can help you better understand heat rash and how you can prevent it from happening again.

If your baby’s rash is still present after three or four days, is getting worse, or is accompanied by a fever, you should schedule an appointment.


The Bottom Line

Babies are sensitive to many things in their new world. A brief time spent in the heat can cause your baby to overheat.

Try to create a safe environment for your baby on those hot and humid days. Loose-fitting clothing, shade, and hydration are key elements to helping your baby avoid heat rashes.

If you have any inkling your baby may be getting too hot, you should immediately figure out ways to bring their body temperature back down.

Remember not to expose your baby to extreme temperature changes. This can result in shock and make a simple heat rash much worse. Another way to cool your baby is to give them a sponge bath with lukewarm water.

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Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran licensed pediatrician with three decades of experience, including 19 years of direct patient clinical care. She currently serves as a medical consultant, where she works with multiple projects and clients in the area of pediatrics, with an emphasis on children and adolescents with special needs.