Babies have delicate skin and are at a greater risk of developing skin infections than adults. One skin problem that’s common among infants is what we call baby heat rash. Heat rash in babies is also called prickly heat or miliaria.
This article will cover everything you need to know about baby heat rash, including the types of heat rash, symptoms, treatment options, and, most importantly, how to prevent it.
What Is a Baby Heat Rash?
Heat rash is a condition that results from blocked sweat glands and sweat ducts. This causes sweat to get trapped in the skin. The trapped sweat might cause itching, red bumps, and discoloration.
In severe cases, heat rash might cause the sweat glands to stop functioning properly, leading to a life-threatening condition known as heat exhaustion.
Side effects of heat exhaustion include:
- Increased thirst
- Muscle cramps
- Fast breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Higher heart rate
- Overall body weakness
- High fever
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can eventually lead to heatstroke. But don’t worry. Most cases of heat rash in babies are mild and can easily be managed without medical care.
What Are the Symptoms of Heat Rash?
Common symptoms of heat rash in babies include:
- Red bumps
- Small bumps that may be clear, skin-colored, or red
Why Do Babies Get Heat Rash?
Heat rash is more common in babies than in older children and adults. This is because their skin is still young and delicate and not as well-equipped to regulate temperature like adults and older children.
What Are the Types of Baby Heat Rash?
There are three categories of baby heat rash. These categories are classified based on the surface of the skin that’s affected and the severity of the symptoms.
Miliaria rubra is one of the most popular types of baby heat rash. It often affects babies aged between one and three weeks. Miliaria rubra is caused when the sweat glands in the skin’s upper surface (epidermis) or lower surface (dermis) are blocked. Common signs of miliaria rubra include:
- Constant itching
- Tiny red bumps on the skin
- Discoloration of the skin
Sometimes the bumps on the skin might contain pus which is a clear sign that the skin is infected by bacteria. If this is the case, take the baby to the doctor as soon as possible so they can get a proper medical examination.
Miliaria crystallina is another common type of heat rash affecting babies younger than two weeks old. It is also called sudamina and is among the least severe cases of heat rash. It occurs when the sweat glands on the skin’s upper surface (epidermis) are blocked.
The most common symptom of miliaria crystalline is the presence of tiny white blisters on the skin. These blisters may look like droplets of clear water.
Unlike Miliaria rubra, this type of heat rash doesn’t cause itchiness or redness of the skin. In addition, it usually goes away in a day or two, so it shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Miliaria profunda is the most severe case of heat rash in babies. But fortunately, it is very rare. It occurs when sweat is unable to escape from the sweat glands leading to its accumulation in the deeper layer of the skin. It is characterized by large, firm, skin-colored spots that look like pimples. These symptoms may cause severe itching, leading to irritation of the skin and, eventually, an infection.
An accumulation of sweat in the glands can lead to heat exhaustion, a condition where the baby’s body can’t regulate temperature. Cases of Miliaria profunda should be monitored closely to avoid skin infections and heat exhaustion and ensure a speedy recovery.
What Parts of the Skin Does Baby Heat Rash Commonly Affect?
Some commonly affected skin areas include:
- Knee creases
- Elbow creases
- Neck folds
- Inner thighs
- The upper part of the back
How Is Heat Rash Diagnosed and Treated?
Heat rash is diagnosed by examining symptoms such as redness and the development of blisters on the skin.
Typically, baby heat rash shouldn’t be a cause for concern because it doesn’t cause a lot of discomfort and clears up pretty quickly. The condition can easily be managed at home. Common home remedies include:
- Keeping the affected area of skin dry as soon as you notice the signs. You can use baby powders or simply remove their clothes for a while.
- Keeping the baby’s skin cool by ensuring the fan or the AC unit is running.
- Regularly clean the affected areas with a dry piece of cloth to prevent heat rashes from worsening.
- Gently compressing the affected areas with a cool piece of clothing.
- Ensuring the baby stays hydrated. For infants, this means giving them enough milk as required. For older babies, simply give them plenty of fluids.
- Keeping the baby in gloves to prevent them from scratching their skin.
- Keeping the baby’s skin folds cool and dry.
- Bathe the baby in lukewarm water. Avoid using cold water because that may be uncomfortable for your baby. Also, avoid using soaps and shampoos since they may clog the pores further, making the condition even worse.
When to Call the Doctor About Heat Rash in Babies
Most cases of heat rashes can be treated at home. However, if the condition seems to worsen and you don’t know what to do, then call a doctor so they can advise you on further treatment.
The healthcare provider might prescribe a steroid cream to speed up the recovery process. In some cases, they might administer antibiotics if they believe the skin rash is accompanied by a bacterial infection.
Don’t apply any steroid cream to your baby’s skin without consulting with a doctor. Heat rash is not an allergic reaction, so creams won’t help the baby that much. Plus, some creams might make the condition worse instead of helping.
How Do You Prevent Heat Rash?
The best way to deal with heat rash is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This will save your baby from constant irritation and give you the peace of mind you deserve as a parent. Some common heat rash prevention measures include:
- Dress the baby in loose fitting and lightweight clothes (find the best baby sleep clothes here)
- Use lightweight bedding
- Ensure that the air conditioning unit and fan are running to avoid sweating
Don’t expose the child to direct sunlight, especially during peak hours. Morning sunlight is still a great source of vitamin D which aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Just ensure you dress the baby in light cotton clothing, and don’t stay outside for too long.
How Long Does a Heat Rash Last?
In most babies, a rash lasts for around three and seven days. In fact, mild cases of heat rash can last for just a single day. If seven days are over and the wounds don’t show any sign of healing, you might want to visit a doctor for proper treatment and medical care.
What Causes Heat Rash
Common causes of heat rash include:
- Using a heavy blanket
- Hot weather
- Dressing your baby in tight clothes or too many layers of clothes
- Poor ventilation
- An existing fever
- Swaddling, especially on a hot day
Does Breast Milk Help Heat Rash?
Breast milk is nutritious and plays a key role in keeping your baby healthy. However, there’s no solid evidence to prove that breast milk can help your baby’s heat rash heal faster.
However, it has been shown that breast milk has various healing properties that help the body fight against infections and viruses.
Cradle Cap Versus Heat Rash
Cradle cap is especially common in children between two and three months old. Just like heat rash, it usually goes away on its own.
A cradle cap occurs when the baby’s glands produce too much oil, which may interfere with the normal shedding of dead skin.
As a result, skin patches that appear yellowish, scaly, or crusty might form around the baby’s head. Sometimes, the skin patches might be grey, purple, or grey.
Is Cradle Cap Harmful?
Cradle cap isn’t harmful, and it often goes away without the need for specialized medical care. Here are a few ways to manage cradle cap naturally at home:
- Wash your baby’s scalp with baby shampoo
- Don’t wash the hair too often because it might dry out the scalp
- Soften your baby’s scalp with oil to make it easier to brush
- Use a soft-bristled hairbrush to avoid irritation
How Long Does Cradle Cap Last?
Often Cradle cap goes away in a few weeks or months as opposed to heat rash, which lasts for less than a week. Be patient and your child’s skin will be back to normal in a few months.
Noticing heat rash on your baby’s skin might be concerning, especially if you’re a first-time mom. But don’t worry. The condition can easily be managed at home.
Simply keep your baby’s skin dry, the area cool by turning on the air conditioning unit and fans, and ensure skin folds are dry.