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You might think that only athletes or active people get heat or sweat rash, but babies commonly get heat rash, too.
Heat rash is caused by clogged sweat glands which trap sweat under the surface of the skin.
Since a baby’s sweat glands haven’t fully developed, they aren’t efficient in excreting sweat, leading to rash.
Fortunately, most rashes go away on their own and there are things you can do to relieve your baby’s discomfort.
Cooling Your Baby and Relieving Heat Rash
Bathe your baby.
As soon as you suspect your baby has heat rash, begin to cool him down.
Give your baby a bath in lukewarm water to bring his body temperature down.
Just avoid using cold water.
Cold water could shock your baby because of the extreme temperature difference.
Let your baby air dry after his bath.
It’s important to keep your baby’s cooled skin exposed to air.
This can speed up healing.
Cool the room.
You may notice your baby is overly warm after napping in a warm room.
Check the temperature of the room.
You should keep the room at a comfortable 68 to 72°F (20 to 22.2°C) If you need to, turn on the air conditioner or use a fan to circulate the air.
If you don’t have air conditioning and a room fan isn’t doing enough to cool the room, consider taking your baby to an air-conditioned public place like a mall or library.
Studies have shown a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if a fan runs in the baby’s room while the baby sleeps.
Dress your baby in loose clothing.
Remove your baby from swaddling or remove warm clothing (like long-sleeve shirts, coats, etc).
Instead, dress your baby in all cotton or all-natural fiber clothing.
This will help him cool off since moisture won’t remain on her skin.
Try to layer your baby’s clothing so you can adjust the layers of clothing to continue cooling off your baby depending on the weather.
Babies are more prone to heat rash if they’re overwarm (overdressed or swaddled) or have a fever.
Use cool compresses.
Soak a soft cotton washcloth in cool water and apply it to the rash to relieve itching.
Once the cloth warms up, reuse the cloth by soaking it in cool water again.
You can also make an herbal tea compress using herbs that have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Steep 1 heaping tablespoon of herbs in 1 cup of hot water for five minutes.
Let the mixture cool completely, then dip your cloth in it and apply the compress.
To make the tea, use one of the following:
Apply aloe vera.
Cut a stem of aloe vera.
Squeeze the gel onto the rash and spread it evenly.
The gel will be gooey at first, but will soon dry.
Research shows that aloe vera reduces inflammation and can treat minor skin conditions.
If you can’t use fresh aloe vera, buy aloe vera gel from a drugstore or pharmacy.
Choose a product that mainly contains aloe vera instead of preservatives or fillers.
Avoid applying creams, lotions, or ointments.
While you can apply natural aloe vera gel to the rash, don’t apply lotions, creams, or ointments like calamine to relieve itchiness.
Some doctors believe it can dry the skin, making the rash worse.
Calamine shouldn’t be used on very young babies (under six months old).
It’s also best to avoid using creams or ointments containing mineral oil or petroleum (such as Vaseline).
If you’re concerned about your baby scratching his rash, ask the doctor about what you can use to relieve itchiness.
Recognizing Heat Rash and Getting Medical Attention
Recognize symptoms of baby heat rash (miliaria).
Check your baby’s skin for areas with small red bumps or blisters.
You might see your baby scratching these prickly and itchy areas.
Pay special attention to the skin under your baby’s clothes, where her skin creases (like on the neck and under the arms), and her groin, chest, and shoulders.
A heat rash (also called sweat rash or prickly heat) can show up suddenly because sweat glands become blocked, trapping sweat under the surface of the skin.
Determine if your baby is too hot.
Make sure your baby is not overdressed and is wearing loose clothing.
If you’re not sure whether your baby is uncomfortable, look for the following signs that your baby is overdressed or too hot:
- Your baby’s head and neck are damp and sweaty
- Your baby’s face is red
- Your baby is breathing too fast (more than 30 to 50 breaths a minute if he’s under six months or more than 25 to 30 breaths if he’s between six months old and a year)
Your baby seems irritable, cries, and fusses
Know when to see a doctor.
Most heat rashes will improve on their own and won’t need medical treatment.
But, if you don’t notice your baby’s rash getting better within 24 hours, or if the rash is becoming swollen, painful, or has pus, or your baby develops a fever, call your baby’s pediatrician.
Your baby’s rash may not actually be a heat rash.
In the meantime, avoid using over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or medicated anti-itch lotions on your baby.
These should only be used with your doctor’s approval.
Get a physical examination.
The doctor will check your baby’s rash to look for infection and determine if it is actually heat rash.
Most of the time, no tests or lab work will need to be done.
If the pediatrician is unsure about diagnosing the rash, you may be referred to a dermatologist.
The doctor will ask if your baby is taking medications since heat rash can occur as a side effect.
For example, heat rash is a common symptom of clonidine.
Follow the doctor's treatment recommendations.
If the doctor diagnoses your baby with heat rash, the doctor may simply recommend cooling your baby and keeping her skin dry.
Rarely, the doctor might prescribe a skin cream or lotion to treat the baby’s rash.
These are usually only used in severe cases.
These lotions and ointments usually contain antihistamines or low-level corticosteroids to treat rash inflammation.