Heat Rash On Babies - Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

heat rash in babies

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Baby’s skin is sensitive and is prone to heat rashes. Even though these rashes are not harmful, they tend to make the baby uncomfortable and restless over time. The baby could show signs of irritation and might have trouble sleeping. We do not want our little one to suffer! MomJunction tells you how you can prevent baby heat rash and deal with them effectively when they come on.


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What Is Heat Rash?

Heat rash is also called prickly heat or miliaria, or sweat rash. It is a result of unusual sweating and blockage of sweat glands and is common in adults. Babies and children are also prone to these rashes as their sweat glands are still developing.

According to Dr Jody A. Levine, parents advisor and director of dermatology at Plastic Surgery & Dermatology of NYC, “Heat rash develops when sweat becomes blocked, which is common with infants, and is trapped under the skin.”

Causes Of Heat Rash In Babies

Usually, heat rashes on babies develop during hot or humid environment, when the body tends to show excessive perspiration. Perspiration allows the dead skin cells and bacteria to clog the sweat glands, trapping the sweat under the skin, resulting in characteristic bumps. A stinging or pricking sensation can be felt when these bumps burst to release the sweat. Tight or very warm clothes make the condition worse.

Heat rashes can also be seen in babies during winter. This could happen due to overheating the house or if the baby is wearing many layers of clothes, or if he is running with a fever.

At times, a cough ointment rubbed on the baby’s chest may also trigger a heat rash (1).

How To Identify Heat Rashes In Babies Or Infants?

Heat rashes are clusters of small red or pink bumps or dots, similar to blisters or pimples. They are usually seen on babies’ back, face, skin foldings, abdomen, neck, upper chest, legs, groin, diaper area, or armpits. They may even be found on scalp or head if the baby wears a hat.

In general, heat rash can be uncomfortable, itchy, and cause crankiness or restlessness in babies, besides giving a tingling or pricking sensation. However, they are not contagious. Your baby may even be up all the night, scratching those red heat bumps. In rare cases, scratching may lead to a secondary skin infection.

Home Treatment For Heat Rash In Babies

The key lies in keeping the baby cool. Taking some simple home remedies should make heat rashes disappear within a few days.

  1. Loosen your baby’s clothes and try to keep him in a cool area.
  2. Give the baby a lukewarm bath using a mild soap. Try adding the colloidal oatmeal powder to the tub of bath water (2). It provides relief and helps in soothing your baby.
  3. Pat or air dry the skin gently. Remember to dry all the baby’s skin folds after every bath.
  4. Applying calamine lotion may soothe the baby’s sore skin and hydrocortisone cream (0.5%) may reduce a severe rash. However, it is better to consult a doctor before using it on the baby.

More Effective Measures Are:

  • Use a fan to prevent sweating.
  • Avoid applying perfumed powders, lotions, or oils, which tend to worsen the rash by clogging the pores and trapping the moisture.
  • Give as much nappy-free time as possible.
  • Use a cotton towel to hold your baby to help absorb the sweat.
  • Apply cool, wet clothes on the affected areas.
  • Regular trimming of baby fingernails would stop the baby from scratching the rashes. You may also consider putting little socks on the baby’s hand while sleeping.
  • Do not hold the baby if you are wearing fabrics like wool. They tend to irritate his tender skin.

When To Seek Medical Attention?

Fortunately, heat rash does not require medical attention in most cases. But, in very few cases, the rashes might persist or even spread. Seek medical attention if:

  • the rash seems to get worse
  • rashes do not subside within two to three days
  • blisters look swollen or ooze pus
  • symptoms of infection are found (usually happens due to scratching)
  • the baby, under three months, has a 38°C or higher fever
  • the baby, between three and six months, has a 39ºC or more temperature
  • red streaks extend beyond the affected area.

Are Heat Rashes Serious?

Heat rashes are not serious, but indicate that your baby is too warm. In rare and serious cases, prickly heat rashes may interfere with the heat-regulating system of the body, causing heat exhaustion. It rarely leads to an extreme medical emergency called ‘Heatstroke’ when the body fails to cool by itself. And baby being too warm during sleep may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, according to few studies.

Ways To Prevent Heat Rashes In Babies

The best effective way to prevent heat rashes in babies is to keep the skin dry and cool.

  • Avoid hot weather or more time in sling or carrier. Head to shades if you are outdoors.
  • Keep the indoors cool. Have proper ventilation for fresh air to flow in.
  • Use fans or air conditioners whenever possible to keep air circulating.
  • Ditch heavy clothing. Prefer loose, light cotton clothes.
  • The best thing to do is to dress your baby as you would dress yourself for that weather.
  • Natural fabrics like cotton would wick moisture away from the skin at the same time give enough space to breathe.
  • Avoid plastic diaper liners or pants.
  • Lightly dust cornstarch, but avoid talcum powder.
  • Ensure to keep your baby well hydrated, by frequently offering breast milk or formula.
  • Keep checking if the baby is getting overheating, by touching his skin. If he is too warm, the skin would be hot and damp.


1. Are there any tests for heat rash in babies?

Heat rash can just be diagnosed simply by appearance and baby’s behavior. There are no tests required.

2. Can I use baby powder for heat rash?

Baby powder is usually a milder astringent effective on baby rashes. You dust baby powder to keep the skin dry and sweat-free. But avoid perfumed talcum powder or those containing asbestos, dyes, or harsh skin irritants.

3. How to differentiate between eczema and heat rash in babies?

The primary cause of heat rash is clogged sweat glands. Eczema in babies is a result of allergens present in the surrounding environment. Heat rash heals a lot faster than eczema (3). Eczema rashes have different presentations in different babies. Typical signs of eczema rash in babies could be as below.

  • Even though they are like red bumps similar to that of heat rash, they might be dry, scaly, and itchy rashes around the neck, face, mouth, eyes, arms, legs, upper body, etc.
  • Eczema is found even on chin and cheeks of babies who tend to drool.

How do you deal with heat rashes in your baby? Share your experience here.

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