Skin Conditions Heat Rash

Gauging whether a baby is too hot or too cold is difficult with young children who aren’t old enough to talk. One clear indication that your child is dressed too warmly is the appearance of miliaria, or prickly heat, a type of heat rash.

Miliaria appears when your baby sweats so much that his pores clog to a point where the sweat can’t escape. This usually happens in weather conditions that are hot and humid and when clothes are too heavy or too tight. A heat rash might also occur if your child is sweating due to a high fever. Since babies have smaller pores than adults, they’re prone to heat rash.

Heat Rash or Fever?

Fevers may result in heat rash with its characteristic pink bumps and itching. In this case, treating the heat rash won’t alleviate the symptoms. You’ll have to treat the fever. Keep in mind that fevers can cause heat rash, but heat rash doesn’t cause fevers.

Symptoms of Heat Rash

Heat rash appears as a bright red pimply rash or a small cluster of pink bumps on a child’s skin. Affected areas are likely to include the:

  • buttocks
  • crotch
  • neck
  • stomach.

These areas are often impacted because they feature folds of skin. You may also find heat rash on the scalp or forehead if your child has been wearing a hat.

Heat Rash: Is it Painful?

Heat rash isn’t painful, but for many children, miliaria does cause itchiness, hence the name prickly heat. Some of the pink bumps may also be tender to the touch.

Treatment for Prickly Heat

Heat rash isn’t usually serious, but it does indicate that your baby is too hot. Take steps to cool him off so that the heat rash doesn’t develop into something more serious, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. To cool your baby off, try the following:

  • Go to a shady or cool spot.
  • Loosen clothing.
  • Provide a tepid bath.
  • Place a fan near the crib.
  • Use cool washcloths.

Avoid treatment with ointments and lotions. They can make the rash worse by trapping in moisture. You may use a calamine lotion for older children, but be sure to check with your doctor first.

You should also avoid talcum powder. Doctors no longer recommend this treatment because it can be accidentally inhaled into the lungs.

Prickly heat should disappear within three to four days. If it seems to be getting worse, doesn’t respond to cooling techniques or if your child develops a high fever, you should call your doctor.

Preventing Prickly Heat

Preventing heat rash isn’t difficult. Here are a few tips:

  • Check your baby’s temperature frequently.
  • Dress your baby in loose clothing and avoid situations in which your baby can become too hot.
  • Keep your baby in the shade when outdoors and use a stroller with adequate shading.
  • On cold days, use a blanket rather than bundling your baby in tight or irritating clothing, such as a wool sweater.

If you’re careful about checking your baby’s comfort in cold and warm weather, you will likely be able to prevent heat rash altogether.


Baby Center (2005). Heat rash. Retrieved September 10, 2007, from the Baby Center Web site: