Baby Heat Rash: 11 Tips For Parents

Heat rash is a raised, bumpy, prickly rash that suddenly appears on hot days. How to help your baby when they have a heat rash – and help stop heat rash in the first place? Learn our top 11 tips.

Heat rash is a raised, bumpy, prickly rash that suddenly appears on hot days. It’s caused by lots of sweating, so much that it clogs up baby’s sweat glands. When sweat glands are clogged, sweat can’t pass through the skin and gets trapped underneath, leading to the rash.

Babies are more prone to heat rash than older children and adults, because little ones’ sweat glands are still developing, and because babies’ bodies can’t regulate temperature as well. But fortunately for your family, most heat rashes don’t require a doctor’s help to clear. By taking action at home, you can help baby’s heat rash go away.

How to help your little one with a heat rash – and help stop it in the first place? Here are our top 11 tips.

Learn more about heat rash from Nurse Dani of Intermountain Moms: 

1. Know how to tell when baby has a heat rash. 

Heat rashes (sometimes called prickly heat or miliaria) suddenly appear on a hot day. They usually appear on the areas of baby’s body that are most prone to heat – the face, wrists, armpits, other parts of the arms, and legs. And it’s usually easy to tell that heat caused the rash. 

Heat rash looks similar to baby acne. It is always raised, sometimes bumpy and prickly, and sometimes blistery or itchy. 

On babies with darker skin, it can be purplish-brown, gray, or slightly darker than the color of baby’s skin, with some occasional whitish spots. 

On babies with lighter skin, it is bright red to pinkish.

2. Skip what clogs the pores.

If baby has a heat rash, don’t apply lotions, oils, creams, or powders. These can make baby’s heat rash worse by clogging up baby’s sweat glands even more. They also tend to make baby warmer.

In fact, on very hot days, it’s best to skip most powders, lotions and oils for any baby, unless they’re necessary. Only apply the essentials, such as sunscreen (in small amounts) or moisturizers if baby has eczema.

3. Keep baby’s clothing loose and light. 

Light and loose-fitting clothing is best for baby on hot days. Soft cotton clothing is usually the best option – an added bonus of cotton is that it tends to absorb moisture and help keep the sweat glands from clogging.

Stay away from heavy and tight-fitting clothes to reduce the risk of heat rash. 

4. Pick your location carefully.

If possible, keep baby in air-conditioned areas as frequently as you can on hot days. If you don’t have AC, or can’t easily get to a location that does, run fans to circulate the air around baby. Make sure the fan is far enough away from baby so they feel a gentle breeze, not a sudden gust.

Enjoying the outdoors? Stick to the shade as often as possible, and don’t spend too much time outside. Also, always keep baby away from direct sunlight. This applies whether baby has a heat rash or not. 

And if baby does develop a heat rash, looks flushed, or starts to sweat a lot, get them to a cool area as soon as you can. 

5. Make sure baby stays hydrated.

Whether they have a heat rash or not, hydration is key. This is especially true on hot days to help cut down on sweating and heat. 

Maintaining good hydration means letting breastfed babies nurse whenever they want, ensuring formula-fed babies feed frequently, and giving older babies (6+ months) small amounts of water as a supplement.  

6. Be wary of swaddles, slings and carriers when it’s hot. 

When baby is in a swaddle, sling or carrier, they’re surrounded by your body heat. There also isn’t much ventilation, since they’re held so close to you and are surrounded by the fabric. On hot days, this means that swaddles, slings or carriers promote sweat and increase the risk of heat rash. 

If you need to carry your little one on a hot day, it’s better to do so without a swaddle, sling or carrier.

7. Help baby cool down during sleep. 

Whether you use an air conditioner, gentle breeze from a fan, or both, baby’s sleeping area should stay cool and have the proper ventilation. This doesn’t just reduce baby’s heat rash risk – a cool room is also thought to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). 

Clothing also plays a role here. Just like during the day, baby should be dressed in loose-fitting, cotton clothing, and shouldn’t be overdressed. 

8. If baby has a heat rash, give the clothing a break.

Remember that a heat rash appears because baby’s sweat glands are clogged and sweat is trapped. To help unclog the glands when baby develops a rash – and help baby cool down – let baby have some time without clothing. For instance, let them crawl or explore while they are naked, or take their clothes off for playtime on a mat. 

9. Keep baby’s skin cool and dry when they have a rash. 

If you see heat rash anywhere on baby’s body, it’s important to keep that area dry. You could use a gentle fan to help remove the moisture. Or, you could apply a cool compress to the area and then pat the area dry.

10. Clean off baby’s sweat.

Rinsing off baby’s sweat and oil from a rash area with cool water, then gently patting the area dry, can also help relieve their heat rash.  

If you’re giving baby a bath, use slightly warm water and a mild cleanser, then gently pat the rash area dry to help soothe the rash areas. Pay special attention to cleaning the skin folds and other rash-prone areas (even if rashes haven’t emerged there), to help get rid of oil and sweat that may be trapped and that could worsen the rash.

11. Know when to see a doctor about a heat rash. 

Although most heat rashes go away on their own, there are some situations where you’ll need to see a doctor about heat rash. Consult your pediatrician if baby’s heat rash lasts more than three days or gets worse, or if you suspect that baby has an infection caused by scratching the rash. 

You should also see a doctor any time that baby has a fever. Fevers can lead to heat rashes, but heat rashes are never the source of a fever. So, you’ll need to consult a doctor to help figure out the fever’s cause. 

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