Baby heat rash, also called prickly heat or miliaria, is not a contagious skin rash. As the name suggests, heat rash is a skin condition that develops when your baby’s skin gets too hot. More specifically, heat rash is caused when sweat gets stuck in your baby’s pores. When your baby’s body becomes hot, their skin begins to produce sweat (which is a cooling mechanism for the human body). Normally, drops of sweat would simply be released through pores. However, babies have tiny pores that can easily become clogged.
Heat rash is the result of sweat getting caught in those small pores as it tries to reach the surface of your little one’s skin. Summer is the most common season for heat rash because we all sweat a bit more during the hot summer months. Humid climates can also contribute to heat rash. But this skin condition doesn’t only occur when the temperature is high! It can also form when it’s cold, especially if your baby is wearing many layers of clothing. Remember to de-layer when you go indoors. Fortunately, heat rash isn’t a serious condition. It’s perfectly normal for babies to get heat rash, and with proper treatment, it usually goes away after a few days.
How Can You Tell If Your Baby Has Heat Rash?
Babies have soft, delicate skin. This means that their skin is more sensitive and prone to conditions like dryness, eczema, and rashes. Baby heat rash can be identified by the following symptoms:
If you’ve noticed these telltale signs on your baby’s skin, they may be suffering from heat rash.
Keep an extra close eye on your baby’s chest, neck, diaper area, or armpits.
Your baby is more likely to develop heat rash in these places because they are the areas that usually produce the most sweat. Clothing also tends to fit tightly around those parts of their body.
So how can you tell baby heat rash apart from other skin conditions, like eczema or cradle cap?
Eczema Versus Baby Heat Rash
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, typically shows up as red or yellow swollen patches of skin. While it is commonly found on babies’ faces, it can flare up on any part of the body. Your baby’s skin will be itchy, and the itchiness might even make it difficult for them to sleep well.
As opposed to run-of-the-mill dry skin, the rough, dry patches of eczema don’t go away when you apply lotion (although the right eczema skin care can help!).
Eczema will normally cause flaking and feel rough to the touch. Heat rash, on the other hand, causes small bumps or tiny blisters to form on the surface of your baby’s skin.
Cradle Cap Versus Baby Heat Rash
Cradle cap also causes red, flaky skin, but this condition most often forms on your baby’s head and forehead. While a mild case looks like red, flaky skin, a more extreme case of cradle cap produces raised patches of crusty, oily skin.
Although it can be unsightly, cradle cap is harmless and not contagious. You’ll simply want to keep an eye on things, resist the urge to pick at the flakes, and use cradle cap-specific skincare products, such as Cradle Cap Cream and Foam Shampoo for Newborns.
How To Prevent Baby Heat Rash
If your baby hasn’t yet developed a heat rash, consider yourself lucky! It’s a common ailment that most babies suffer from at one point or another. But this doesn’t mean baby heat rash is inevitable! There are several simple steps you can take to prevent it.
Keep Your Baby Cool
If your baby is nice and cool, their body doesn’t need to sweat. No sweating means no heat rash! If your baby’s cheeks become flushed, it’s probably a sign that they’re a bit too hot. Whenever you notice rosy red cheeks, move your baby to a cooler area.
Another option when you notice rosy red cheeks is to run cool water over your little one’s skin. The cool water will rinse away the sweat and body oil. Next, you can apply a cool, wet washcloth to lower your baby's body temperature.
Keeping your baby cool also means checking your baby’s body temperature frequently. Babies tend to get hot quickly, much faster than adults do. So keeping an eye on your baby when you’re in a hot environment, such as outside, will help prevent a heat rash from developing.
And, mom, you know your little one best. If you notice your baby starting to get uncomfortable and fussy while outside — or even in a warm house — this is a sign that your baby may be too hot.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time in The Sun
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some sunshine with your little bundle of joy, don’t spend too long in the sun. The heat the sunlight brings can lead to baby heat rash.
Heat rash isn’t the only concern when it comes to fun in the sun. Too much direct sunlight can cause sunburn and poses dangers to your baby’s sensitive skin. Caution is the name of the game!
Avoid direct sunlight and peak sun hours (between 10:00 a.m, and 4:00 p.m.), dress your baby in protective clothing — like a sun hat and loose clothing — and apply baby-safe sunscreen.
Keep Your Baby’s Skin Dry
Moisturized skin is generally a good thing, but too much moisture can irritate your baby’s skin. This is especially true when heat is added to the mix.
To prevent heat rash, make sure you are using a moisturizer formulated for your baby’s skin type so no excess moisture remains. And always make sure your baby is dry before dressing them.
Remember to pay particular attention to your baby’s skin folds when drying your little one off after a bath. We’re talking about areas such as the neck, arms, legs, and diaper area. You’ll want to make sure these specific areas are completely dry.
When changing your baby’s diaper, allow their bum to dry completely before putting on a new diaper. Use a diaper cream designed to protect and soothe your baby’s bottom.
Dress Your Baby In Layers
Babies are a bit fickle when it comes to temperatures. They get cold easily, but they can also get too hot very quickly.
The easiest solution is to dress your little one in layers. Think: a onesie as a base layer, then a long-sleeved shirt, a cardigan, and so on. Whenever your baby seems hot, simply remove a layer. When you notice that your baby is feeling cold again, just add another layer.
Avoid Dressing Your Baby in Tight Clothing
Tight-fitting clothing won’t allow your baby’s skin to breathe and can actually lead to heat rash. Moisture can easily lock into your baby’s skin when they wear tight clothes, creating the perfect environment for a heat rash to develop.
Dress your little one in loose clothing to prevent heat rash from occurring.
How To Treat Baby Heat Rash
As we mentioned earlier, heat rash is easy to treat and normally goes away in two to three days, if not sooner. Here are the best ways to treat your baby’s heat rash.
Let Your Baby’s Skin Breathe and Dry Out
It’s extremely important to keep the areas affected by heat rash completely dry. This is essential to get rid of your baby’s heat rash.
Why is keeping your little one’s skin dry so important? As we explained earlier in the post, heat rash is caused by sweat clogging your baby’s pores.
Letting your little one’s skin breathe is an excellent way to clear up heat rash because it dries their skin. Allow your baby to be naked (or just in a diaper) for as much time as possible until the rash goes away.
Adjust The Temperature in Your Home
One easy way to treat heat rash is to lower the temperature in your home. This will help keep your baby’s skin cool and dry, which will help the rash to clear up on its own.
It’s particularly important to make sure your baby isn’t too hot while they sleep. Adjust the thermostat or try turning a fan on low if your baby’s room tends to be too warm at night.
Use Mild Cleansers Rather Than Soaps
Most soaps are simply too harsh for a baby’s delicate skin and should be avoided whenever possible. Additionally, a few specific ingredients are particular no-nos for baby skin care.
Be Gentle with Your Baby’s Skin
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: always be gentle with your little one’s skin! Be careful not to rub or scratch your baby’s skin when dressing them. You can even let your little one air-dry after a bath to cool off if you have the time.
If you’re not air-drying after bath time, pat (rather than rub) your baby dry with a soft towel and only use gentle skincare products that are specially designed for a baby’s delicate skin.
Dress Your Baby in Loose Clothing
As we mentioned earlier, tight-fitting clothing may create an environment for a heat rash to develop. So if your little one already has a heat rash, dress them in loose-fitting clothing to help treat it and soothe their skin.
Loose-fitting clothing won’t rub against your baby’s skin and is, therefore, less likely to further irritate heat rash. Tight clothing may inflame the rash by rubbing against the affected area or by making your baby sweat even more.
Try to dress your baby in loose clothing made from soft, breathable fabrics.
Give Your Baby Plenty of Fluids
While your little one is fighting off a heat rash, they may be dehydrated. There’s very likely a lot of moisture locked in their skin and the rash. Plus, their body is working overtime to unclog their pores and eliminate the rash!
Give your baby plenty of fluids so that their body has the hydration it needs until the heat rash is gone.
If your baby is still on only breastmilk or formula, hydrating simply means ensuring that your little one is nursing or taking a bottle frequently.
When Should You Call Your Doctor?
Heat rash is very rarely a serious condition. Usually, it resolves on its own, especially if you’re putting into practice the tips for treating and preventing heat rash already mentioned in this article. But be on the lookout for the following:
If you notice any of these symptoms along with a general case of heat rash, reach out to your little one’s pediatrician for further assistance.