It’s likely that at some point during the early days of parenthood, every new mama or papa will completely panic over an obscure rash on their little one’s skin—even baby acne or cradle cap can come as a surprise! Most often these skin conditions aren’t preventable and are nothing to worry about—they’re just part of being a fresh baby with ultra-sensitive skin. And baby heat rash is no different.
Read on to learn:
- What baby heat rash is
- What causes baby heat rash
- What baby heat rash looks like
- Plus, how to treat baby heat rash naturally
What Is Baby Heat Rash?
A heat rash—also known as “prickly heat” or miliaria—is a superficial skin rash that occurs most often in infants, but can also occur in adults, says Dr. Eboni Hollier, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician.
Baby heat rash affects up to 40 percent of infants and usually appears during the first month of life. — source
Baby heat rash generally causes small bumps on the surface of the skin, and may feel itchy or tingly, similarly to eczema but without the dryness. (source)
What Causes Baby Heat Rash?
Heat rash generally occurs in hot, humid weather, when pores become blocked and trap sweat. (source)
“Instead of evaporating, perspiration remains trapped beneath the skin, causing inflammation and rash,” — Dr Mark Koh Jean Aan, Pediatric Dermatology Service, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
Babies are more likely to develop heat rash because their pores are underdeveloped and get blocked easily. In addition to overall climate, babies may also be experience heat rash as a result of external factors like:
- Being dressed too warmly
- Being dressed in thick or synthetic fabrics that don’t allow sweat to evaporate normally
- Using heavy lotions and creams
- Developing a fever
It’s most common to spot this type of rash on areas where skin touches skin, causing friction: the neck, armpits, and thigh areas.
What Does Baby Heat Rash Look Like?
There are two main types of baby heat rash to watch for:
- Miliaria crystallina is the most common form of baby heat rash. (source) This form of heat rash causes small clear or white bumps filled with fluid on the surface of baby’s skin.
- Miliaria rubra is more common in adults and can cause more discomfort, since it occurs deeper in the epidermis. It is characteristic of red bumps and itching or prickling. (source)
Home Remedies for Baby Heat Rash
Search for home remedies for baby heat rash and you’ll turn up hundreds of results, but there are a few tried-and-true solutions that experts swear by:
- Oatmeal baths: Oats contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can soothe itchiness related to baby heat rash. Add colloidal oatmeal to a lukewarm bath to help your little one find relief.
- Calendula: The herb is known for its naturally astringent properties. Dr. Dave Jenkins, owner of Florida-based Seminole Chiropractic Center, recommends adding a few drops of calendula oil to your baby’s bath water and let child soak for 15-20 minutes. You can also apply directly to skin as long as you use a safe, pre-diluted oil like this one on baby’s sensitive skin.
- Baking soda: Baking soda is known to remove dead cells and other dirt that block spores, giving heat rash less of a chance to hang around. Simply add ½ cup of baking soda to lukewarm bath water.
- Aloe vera: When heat rash strikes, aloe vera can help soothe and cool the affected area. Either slice an actual leaf open or buy a pre-extracted aloe gel product and apply to the rash.
- Cucumbers: You’ve probably heard the saying “cool as a cucumber,” and it’s for good reason—the vegetable is known for its soothing properties. Apply slices directly to the affected parts of your baby’s skin and wash off with cool water. You can also apply cucumber pulp to the rash prior to your baby’s bath, allowing it to cool skin down before removing.
- Olive oil/coconut oil: In studies, plant oils can help heal the skin. Olive and coconut oils, in particular, stop itching related to heat rash and also promote skin regeneration. Rub extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil on the rash a few times daily until it heals.
- Chamomile: Research shows the herb naturally soothes skin and reduces inflammation. Soak a few chamomile tea bags in warm (not hot!) water and place the soaked chamomile tea bags on the affected areas.
- Fuller’s Earth Clay: In studies, bentonite clays soothe skin sores. Fuller’s Earth is a type of bentonite clay known for unclogging pores and keeping skin’s oil production in check. Add a little water to three tablespoons of Fuller’s Earth and mix to form a thick paste. Apply it to the rash and allow it to dry completely before rinsing with cold water.
How Long Does Heat Rash Last?
Most of the time baby heat rash does not require treatment and should subside within 3-4 days.
Call your doctor if:
- Your baby develops a fever or chills.
- Your baby shows signs of dehydration.
- Your baby has a decreased desire or ability to feed.
- The area develops pus, redness, crusting, swelling, or tenderness. This could be a sign of infection.
- The heat rash does not seem to be going away or gets worse.
How to Prevent Heat Rash
First and foremost, Hollier says treatment of heat rash includes keeping the skin cool and dry—whether indoors or out.
- Avoid hot or humid conditions. When it’s particularly warm out, stay inside or take frequent breaks in air-conditioned places.
- Avoid using mineral oil-based products. Products like baby oil and petroleum jelly can clog the pores of the skin, leading to baby heat rash. Instead, try pure coconut oil or whipped Shea butter with coconut oil, both of which provide moisture without hindering breathability.
- Skip soap. Unless they had a particularly messy day, it’s perfectly fine to bathe your little one with only water. If you must use soap, try this olive oil-based one.
- Use fragrance-free products. Approximately 8-15 percent of people with contact dermatitis have a fragrance sensitivity. In fact, fragrances account for as much as 45 percent of reactions to cosmetics. (source) Be sure to use fragrance-free laundry detergent, household cleaners, and personal care products.
- Dress your child appropriately. Dress your child in clothing that keeps the skin cool and dry. Use only breathable fabrics like organic cotton and linen, rather than synthetic blends. Better yet, try giving your little one some skin-to-skin time when you feel him getting warm.
- Keep baby hydrated! Keeping your baby hydrated can help keep heat rash at bay, so make sure baby is properly breast- or bottle-fed before heading outdoors, and keep her on a regular schedule even while enjoying fun in the sun.
Babies have sensitive skin, so your go-to method for keeping their skin happy should include using gentle products, limiting time spent in hot temperatures, and dressing them appropriately.
If your little one does get a heat rash, take heart in the fact that it’s very common and typically easily treated in the comfort of your own home.
How About You?
Has your baby ever had heat rash? How did you treat it? How long did it take to go away?