Being a parent is often considered to be one of the toughest jobs in the world. It seems as though new studies or articles come out on a regular basis telling you about something else you should do or avoid doing to raise the healthiest child possible. But you might look at it this way: Life is too short to sweat the small stuff -- especially when sweating can lead to heat rash.
Heat rash is a relatively common condition, particularly in young children. It usually develops in hot and humid weather when the sweat ducts become blocked and clothing rubs the skin, causing redness and irritation [source: Rauch]. Although annoying and uncomfortable, the good news is that heat rash usually heals on its own in just a few days. More good news (especially for children) -- heat rash is not infectious or contagious.
The best way to reduce the risk of getting heat rash is take preventive measures to avoid it. Babies usually develop heat rash because their parents dress them in too much clothing in hot and humid weather. There is no reason to stay inside when the weather is nice, but it is important to keep your child cool and dry if you want to beat the heat (and the heat rash). Use lightweight, soft clothing in the summer. Another way to avoid heat rash is to keep your child's room cool at night. And try not to overuse powders or creams; these can block pores and lead to heat rash [source: Mayo Clinic]. If your child does end up getting heat rash, find a cool, dry place. The symptoms will quickly subside.
Read on to learn why bundling up in the winter is not always comforting and what the symptoms of heat rash are.
Baby Heat Rash Symptoms
Most parents want to protect their children from everything -- sickness, pain, hurt. And with so many major problems out there, heat rash might seem like the least of their worries. However, heat rash is a relatively common condition, particularly in babies. In most cases, it develops when well-intentioned parents overdress their children in hot and humid weather [source: Rauch].
Heat rash usually appears as a patch of red or pink bumps on the areas of the skin covered by clothing. When the sweat ducts become blocked, sweat is trapped under the skin, causing swelling and redness [source: Alai]. Often, clothing can further agitate the area if it continues to rub against the irritated skin.
There are three types of heat rash with varying, but similar, symptoms.
- Miliaria crystallina looks like a scaly cluster of small water blisters on the skin.
- Miliaria rubra shows the same small water blisters, but tiny red bumps or patches will also develop around the affected area.
- Miliaria profunda is recognized by small, skin-colored bumps.
You will usually see miliaria crystallina on your children's head, neck, or shoulders, and miliaria rubra tends to develop on the armpits or groin area. Miliaria profunda is usually more common in adults than in children. Although usually not too serious, heat rash can sometimes develop into a more serious infection [source: Levin].
Even though children are resilient creatures -- and heat rash is easy to treat -- there are steps you can take to prevent it. Read the next page to find out how the sun exacerbates heat rash and how to keep both you and your child cool and rash-free.
Preventing Baby Heat Rash
Parents have a lot to consider when it comes to the health of their children, but heat rash is easy to prevent if you know what to do. When the weather is hot, it can be tough to stay indoors. One approach to dressing children to be outside is to remember they don't need to wear any more clothing then their parents would on the same day, especially in hot weather. Dress your child in a miniaturized version of your own outfit just to be on the safe side. Also, select light, loose clothing. Lightweight fabrics such as cotton will keep your baby dry and cool and prevent sweat ducts from becoming blocked [source: WebMD]. And when dressing your child, don't use more creams or powders than necessary, as these will clog pores.
Watch for signs of overheating. While out in the sun, monitor your child closely to see whether he or she is getting too hot. If the skin appears red and sweaty and feels clammy or hot to the touch, it's time to go inside [source: Mayo Clinic].
If it is particularly hot and humid outside, keep your baby indoors. Find activities to do inside an air-conditioned building. If you must venture out, try to stay in shaded, covered or breezy areas. It's also important to make sure your baby is hydrated, so you might need to feed more often.
Take a cool bath. On really hot days, a cool bath is a great way to beat the heat. Fill up the tub, and let your children play and relax.
Heat rash can be annoying and uncomfortable, but with these things in mind, you and your child can still have lots of fun playing together no matter how hot it might be outside.
Read the next page to find out why trimming your baby's fingernails can help and what symptoms necessitate a trip to the doctor.
Treating Baby Heat Rash
Even if you're careful, your child could still develop heat rash, so it's helpful to know how you can treat it. In most cases, heat rash will heal on its own in a matter of days. But the condition will usually cause your child some discomfort and irritation until it does heal, so there are some things you can do to relieve the symptoms.
The first thing you should do if you notice your child is developing heat rash is to get him or her out of the sun. Take the child to a cool, shady spot and remove any excess clothing. If the skin is particularly sensitive from the heat rash, you can give him or her a cool bath or shower to soothe the symptoms. Let your child air dry instead of using a towel, though, to avoid irritating the skin further.
You can also apply calamine lotion to the area to relieve itching and burning, but keep in mind that many lotions will only cause more irritation. The best way to decrease symptoms of heat rash is to cool off quickly in an air-conditioned place.
Until the heat rash heals, dress your child in light and loose clothing to avoid any rough fabric from rubbing on his or her skin. If possible, keep your child out of diapers if the heat rash is in this area.
In rare cases, heat rash can develop into a more serious infection. Symptoms can include:
- Fever and chills
- Pus drainage
- An increase in pain, swelling or redness
- Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
[source: Mayo Clinic]
If any of these symptoms occur, you should contact your doctor immediately.
For the most part, though, heat rash is not something to be overly worried about. Stay inside and keep cool when the weather is hot, and you can prevent heat rash. Keep reading for more information on heat rash and the complications associated with it.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Alai, Nili, M.D. "Heat Rash." eMedicineHealth. (Accessed 9/1/2009) http://www.emedicinehealth.com/heat_rash/page4_em.htm#Causes
- BabyCenter. "Heat Rash." September 2006. (Accessed 8/19/09). http://www.babycenter.com/0_heat-rash_10881.bc?showAll=true
- Levin, Nikki, M.D, Ph.D. "Miliaria." eMedicine. March 11, 2009. (Accessed 9/1/2009) http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1070840-overview
- Levine, Norman, M.D. "Understanding Heat Rash." WebMD. Dec. 3, 2008. (Accessed 9/2/2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-heat-rash-basics
- Mayo Clinic. "Heat Rash." Jan.18, 2008. (Accessed 9/1/2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heat-rash/DS01058/DSECTION=prevention
- MedicineNet. "Heat Rash" Aug. 4, 2008. (Accessed 9/2/2009) http://www.medicinenet.com/heat_rash/page2.htm#todo
- Nissl, Jan, R.N. "Heat Rash." WebMD. August 1, 2009. (Accessed 8/19/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/heat-rash-topic-overview
- Rauch, Daniel, M.D. "Babies and Heat Rashes." Medline Plus. Oct. 23, 2007. (Accessed 8/19/09)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001966.htm
- VisualDxHealth. "Heat Rash or Prickly Heat in an Infant or Baby." Dec. 22, 2008. (Accessed 8/19/09).http://www.visualdxhealth.com/infant/miliariaRubra-treatments.htm