Heat Rash in Babies

Rashes occur easily in the summer on the delicate skin of a baby. There are many kinds of rashes that the baby could suffer from. One of the most common skin conditions, not just for babies but also for adults, is developing a heat rash in summer. The baby may also develop a heat rash if he has fever and his temperature does not come down quickly.

Baby on knee

What causes heat rash?

A heat rash normally occurs in hot and humid weather. The humidity along with the heat makes the body sweat profusely in order to regulate the body temperature. When the sweat increases so much that the evaporation from the skin is delayed, a heat rash will begin to develop. The skin is irritated when the sweat ducts get blocked and trap the sweat under the skin.

Heat rash is also known as prickly heat and miliaria. They are very common and most people will suffer from a mild case of this skin condition in the summers. It is especially prevalent in babies because of the many skin folds making it difficult for the sweat to dry up and not clog the sweat ducts. Essentially a heat rash forms on the skin when the sweat is collected under the skin due to blocked sweat ducts.

What does heat rash look like?

The skin will be clustered with small pimple-like blisters which may be red compared to the surrounding skin. Heat rash is most often seen in the folds of the skin of the neck, the groin area and in elbow and knee creases.

A heat rash may also come up on areas where clothing hugs the skin tightly, such as the back, stomach and bottom. The scalp and forehead may also be affected if the baby wears a hat.

Symptoms of heat rash

The prickly heat rash is easy to identify. There are raised pimple like bumps on the skin and the area is red. There may be mild swelling anditching. The skin maybe tender when touched.

The red bumpy skin can also cause an intense prickling or stinging sensation. . The baby may be irritable if the skin rash is repeatedly rubbed by cloth touching. The rash can become worse if the baby is wearing synthetic clothing .

Treating heat rash in babies

Mild cases of heat rash may clear up without treatment. However if the rash is troubling the baby, it may be advisable to get a doctor’s opinion. A hydrocortisone cream of low strength canrelieve the itch. If the rash is severe, the doctor maydecide to add an antihistamine syrup.

Skin soothing treatment options include:

  • Calamine lotion
  • Aloe-based lotion or gel
  • Powder to dry the skin

Use only products recommended by your doctor. Avoid using over- the- counter medicated ointments as they may be harmful. Remember that a baby’s skin is sensitive and may not handle over the counter products well.

The primary requirement is to keep the baby cool so that excessive sweat is not generated. Spend time in a cool room indoors. If you need be outdoors ensure that the baby is in the shade. A small fan can be used to ensure circulation of cool air if you are planning on sitting outdoors for an extended period of time with the baby.

Keep baby comfortable when she has a rash:

  • Ensure that the baby has plenty of cool fluids and is dressed comfortably in loose cotton clothing
  • Avoidsynthetic material. Ittraps more heat next to the skin
  • Avoid synthetic clothing
  • Give the baby regular baths to keep the body temperature down. Make sure that the water is not hot as that will make a heat rash worse
  • Use a cold compress on the heat rash area. Wet a clean cotton cloth in ice water and wring it dry, then apply to skin for a few minutes at a time

Reviewed by Catherine Shaffer, M.Sc.

References

  1. CDC, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Extreme Heat, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.html
  2. Babycenter, Heat Rash, https://www.babycenter.com/0_heat-rash_10881.bc
  3. NHS, Prickly Heat, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/prickly-heat/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 26, 2017

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