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Baby Heat Rash: How To Treat And Prevent It

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
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 fairly 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.

What is A Heat Rash?

Heat rash is sometimes referred to as summer rash or prickly heat. It is basically 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.

It is possible for all children to develop a heat rash, but it is most common in babies. A 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

If you see a rash on your baby, there are other symptoms that can lead you to determine the rash is actually heat related.

  • Your baby’s head or neck is damp from sweat.
  • Your baby’s cheeks are flushed.
  • Your baby is more irritable and fussy than normal.
  • Your baby is rapidly breathing.
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What Causes A Heat Rash?

A heat rash can occur when your baby has been profusely sweating and her pores have now become clogged, so the sweat can’t be released.

The reason heat rash is more popular among babies is because their pores are much smaller, so they are more likely to become clogged.

Heat rash is most common during the summer months when the temperature is rather high or there is a high percentage of humidity.

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

Keep In Mind

Some parents notice their babies can wake up in their crib in the morning with a rash. If this happens, it is likely you are bundling up your little one too much for their nighttime sleep. You should try to remove layers one night and see if the rash disappears the next day.

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).

A heat rash does 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 actually lead to life-threatening complications like a heat stroke.

Overheating at night has been proven to increase your baby’s chances of developing SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is important you take extra precautions to ensure your baby is dressed appropriately and its 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 all on their own and have no negative side effects for your baby.

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 some action.

  1. Start The Cool Down: Your baby needs to be taken to a cooler place out of the sun, whether this means an air-conditioned room or even the shade of a tree. 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 probably only 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, 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 themselves if they want to, but you should try to limit the opportunities your baby has to do so. If a blister becomes open, 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. The ointments and creams can aggravate the rash.

Ways To Prevent A Heat Rash

Unfortunately, preventing heat rash probably won’t cross your mind until after your baby has endured one.

The good news is, after that one time, you will learn the ways to prevent the rash and realize it is actually quite easy (4).

  • Dress for comfort: Always make sure your baby is dressed 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 have 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, maybe try to plan your trip for the morning.
  • Stay out of the sun: If you know it is going to 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 it stay cool.
  • Hydration: Your baby can overheat much quicker if it is not properly hydrated. Make sure your baby is getting enough milk, or water if it is old enough.
  • Frequently check in: You should frequently check your baby’s skin to make sure it isn’t turning pink, there isn’t a lot of dampness, and it isn’t significantly warm to the touch. If you think your baby is starting to overheat, you can use a cool washcloth to help bring the 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 sleeves rather than long ones. You could consider adding 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 the ways you can prevent it from happening again.

If your baby’s rash is still present after 3 to 4 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 this new world around them. It is possible a brief time spent in the heat can cause your baby to become too hot.

It is important you 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 its 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 a sponge bath with lukewarm water.

Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran board-certified 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.

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