Heat Rash in Infants and Children

What Is Heat Rash?

Skin rashes are a common health issue in many people. They can be painful, uncomfortable, and concerning. Heat rash, also known as miliaria, is one of the most prevalent types of skin rash. It only occurs in humid and hot weather conditions. Both adults and children can be affected when the pores are blocked, making it harder for sweat to escape the body. The main cause is usually frictional properties of the skin surface. Children often have heat rash on the necks and skin folds, while adults tend to experience these spots on the body parts rubbing together, such as under the arms or between their inner thighs. [1]

Types of Heat Rash

Heat rashes can be divided into the following types:

– Miliaria Rubra: This is the most common form of heat rash. It occurs when the sweat duct is inflamed and becomes red. This causes mild itching and a stinging sensation.

– Miliaria Profunda: This type of heat rash is a bit deeper. It often occurs in kids with recurrent rashes that affect the dermis. The bumps tend to be harder than simple rashes.

– Miliaria Crystallina: This type is caused when sweat ducts are blocked and ruptured. Typical signs often show up on the upper chest, head, or neck.

– Miliaria Pustulosa: This term refers to an infectious heat rash. The bumps might be surrounded by red color with a yellow pus when draining. [2]

Symptoms of Heat Rash

Heat rash leads to a slightly pink rash with raised and small pit spots. In some cases, these dots might look like small pimples. Parents can easily notice the rash on the skin of their children. Sometimes, the affected areas might become uncomfortable or itchy, which makes the babies irritable. In infants, the rash tends to occur in the diaper area, elbow creases, armpits, or on the neck. In older children or toddlers, commonly affected areas include the back, chest, and neck. The rash rarely appears on the feet’s soles, palms, or face. If scratched, the rash might spread. [3]

Possible Complications of Heat Rash

In most cases, heat rash tends to resolve on its own in 2 to 3 days. However, when the rash is severe, your infants or children might scratch it frequently, which increases the risks of infection. Typical signs of an infection caused by heat rash include pus, red streaks in the affected area, pain, warmth, swelling, redness, swollen lymph nodes, or a fever. If parents notice any of these complications, make sure to inform the pediatrician immediately to prevent further issues. [4]

Causes of Heat Rash

As said above, heat rash is caused when sweat glands are blocked, which leads to the forming of small red bumps. Heat Rash is more prevalent in humid or warm conditions, such as when the body of children get overheated during physical exercises, or when the skin is covered in ointments, lotions, or creams. Some major risk factors include:

– Physical exercise during the heat.

– Humid or warm weather during the summer.

– Moisture: Heat rash often occurs in areas of the body that moisture is trapped, such as around the diaper area, under the neck, or the armpit.

– Sweat glands in newborns are susceptible to this condition as they are less mature than those of older children.

– Use of lotions, creams, or ointments, which might block the sweat glands. [5]

Heat Rash Diagnosis

When parents notice any sign of heat rash breaks, it is important to contact the doctor as soon as possible. It is not uncommon to see rashes in children, and most of the cases are not concerning as they tend to disappear after a few days. Nevertheless, a few rashes might be contagious and serious. Also, it is hard to differentiate heat rashes from other similar conditions. Depending on the signs, a doctor might need to take additional tests to make a precise diagnosis and proper treatment plan. [6]

Lifestyle Changes

In most cases, heat rash tends to disappear on its own after a few days. However, there are a few lifestyle changes that parents can try at home to relieve the symptoms and reduce the risk of occurrence:

– Take off any excess clothing.

– Cool the body of your children with air conditioning or a fan.

– Remove any heat source or find a cool place for your babies.

– Wipe off any moisturizes, creams, oils, or lotions.

– Make sure your babies are drinking sufficient fluids.

– Put on more breathable and lighter clothing rather than those with less breathable and heavy fabrics.

– Encourage your babies not to scratch the rash to prevent worsening the conditions.

– Try to let any areas with moisture on the body of your children to air dry. [7]

Home Remedies

There are a couple of simple home remedies that parents can try to alleviate heat rash in children. These include:

– Avoid using heavy blankets for your babies on warm or hot nights.

– Keep your living space cool with air conditioning or a fan.

– Give your older children cotton sheets.

– Apply cold compresses to the affected areas.

– Avoid applying oils or creams on the skin areas where the rash occurs.

– Do not add soap during a cold bath. Instead, use baking soda. [8]


The skin of infants and children is very sensitive. Therefore, parents should give them medications or apply OTC creams only with guidance from a doctor. In some cases when the rash is too severe, a strong anti-inflammatory cream can be suggested to relieve the symptoms. Two common options include calamine lotion and 1% hydrocortisone cream. Both can be purchased over the counter at any drugstores. [9]

Heat Rash Prevention

The key to preventing heat rash in infants and children is to keep them from being overheated. Some measures include:

– Stay away from excessive humidity and heat.

– Dress your children in loosing-fitting and weather-suitable clothing to prevent them from being overheated.

– Avoid skin products that can block the sweat ducts. [10]

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