Treating Heat Rash

This is what to do when your baby overheats and develops that telltale rash.

baby in baby pool PhotoAlto/ Matton

The first time your baby gets a heat rash can be unsettling. Seemingly out of nowhere, your little one is covered in angry little bumps. And then, of course, panic sets in. Your big questions will likely be: “What is it?” “How did she get it?” and “How do we get rid of it?”

  • What Is Heat Rash?

Identifying Heat Rash

Let’s begin with the first question: What is it? Your pediatrician can confirm diagnosis but you’re specifically looking for a rash with tiny red bumps surrounded by redness on the skin. Also, heat rash generally occurs on clothed parts of the body, such as the groin, abdomen, and armpits, says Parents advisor Jody A. Levine, M.D., director of dermatology at Plastic Surgery & Dermatology of NYC. For infants, you’re also looking for redness on the neck (a major heat trapper), shoulders, and chest, too.

To treat heat rash, also known as prickly heat or miliaria, it’s important to know what caused it. The short answer is this: Your baby got hot, tried to sweat and couldn’t. More specifically, “heat rash develops when sweat becomes blocked, which is common with infants, and is trapped under the skin, explains Dr. Levine.

  • When Babies Get Heat Rash

Course of Treatment

Start by cooling your baby down. This means making adjustments to the temperature of the room she’s in and making sure she’s appropriately dressed. “In the summer months, especially in non-air-conditioned homes, there’s more of a risk of developing a heat rash,” says Parents advisor Lawrence F. Eichenfield, M.D., professor of pediatrics and dermatology at University of California, San Diego, and chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. Prickly heat also comes on when you overheat the house in the winter and overdress your baby. Next, consider what your bundle of joy is bundled in. “Loose-fitting clothes are essential,” says Dr. Levine. You need to give the affected areas a chance to breathe. If she starts scratching, which can happen due to the prickly sensation that often accompanies the rash, then consult your pediatrician first before applying any lotions or cream. “Occasionally the itching might need to be treated with an OTC hydrocortisone or calamine lotion for several days,” says Dr. Eichenfield.

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How to Avoid Heat Rash

Keep the house and the baby cool. “A cool, dry environment will keep prickly heat at bay,” says Dr. Levine. So monitor the A/C or thermostat and consider running a fan in your baby’s room to keep the air constantly circulating. And although it’s tempting to bundle your baby, it’s not always necessary. Loose-fitting, cotton clothing can keep your baby warm and still give her skin a chance to breathe.

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