Is it heat rash or something more serious?

Heat rash, also known as miliaria, is common in infants because their sweat glands are less developed than those of their older counterparts. Heat rash can be itchy and uncomfortable for your child and may cause him/her to be grouchy if he/she is suffering from it.

Heat rash occurs most often in the warmer, more humid months of the year, and may be exacerbated by clothing that is restrictive or too tight.  Miliaria is caused by sweat not being able to escape from your child’s skin, which can cause perspiration to get trapped beneath the skin.

This, in turn, causes the red, raised bumps or blisters of the common heat rash.  These clusters of bumps are often found on the face and inside skin folds, such as in the neck folds or the diaper area.

Unfortunately, heat rash can cause a prickly type of pain and itching in your baby’s skin, which she may convey to you by extra fussiness and less sleeping.  Luckily, there are simple things that you can do to relieve your baby’s discomfort.

How should I treat heat rash?

Fortunately, heat rash does not usually require a visit to the pediatrician, and there are some tips and tricks for home remedies of heat rash.  Most of these involve drying out the skin and cooling it down.

Unsplash

Be sure to use a gentle soap and lukewarm water on your baby with heat rash, and lightly pat dry afterward.  Use fans or air conditioning if you can to keep your baby cool and dry.

Do not use oils, lotions, and powders on your baby’s skin, as these will likely further clog pores and make his/her condition worse.  You might consider letting your baby crawl around without clothing for a while to give the skin a breather.

Babies are prone to many rashes and conditions as their immune systems mature; therefore, you should always keep an eye out for what isn’t heat rash.  If your baby’s rash lasts for longer than three days or is getting worse instead of better, call your pediatrician.

What if it’s not heat rash?

It is always possible for a baby to get a secondary bacterial infection from what started as heat rash, so if you are noticing more discomfort, pustules, or any swelling, call your doctor.

Heat rashes also do not cause a fever (but fever may cause a heat rash), so if your baby has a temperature, you are not dealing with miliaria and should call your doctor.  Also, if your baby’s appetite is affected, or if the rash seems to be rapidly worsening or spreading, these are times you should call your doctor.

“I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle.”

—Vincent Van Gogh

Heat rash prevention centers around proper ventilation and avoiding excesses of heat.  Try to dress your baby appropriately for the weather to prevent overheating, and limit time in a baby carrier or sling, which may promote a heat rash.

Seek out air-conditioned environments or use a fan when indoors, and dress your baby in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.  Never leave your baby unattended in a car, and ensure that his/her sleeping areas are cool and well-ventilated at all times.

Heat rash prevention?

You may also consider limiting your baby’s time in the sunshine, and instead opt for shady play areas.  As always, be sure to use sunscreen on your baby year-round when he/she is exposed to the sun to decrease the risk of sunburn.

Heat rash is very common in babies, and although it is uncomfortable, it is usually harmless.  If you think that your baby’s rash is something more serious than heat rash, be sure to get him/her in to see the pediatrician right away.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

Your complete checklist for bringing your baby home I Parenting 101

Suggestions for everything you need to prepare when your little one comes home.

Ultimate checklist for babyproofing the nursery I Parenting 101

Safety checks for your baby’s nursery.