Topic Overview

What is heat rash?

Heat rash (prickly heat) is a red or pink rash usually found on body areas covered by
clothing. It can develop when the sweat ducts become blocked and swell and
often leads to discomfort and itching. Heat rash is most common in babies, but
it may affect adults in hot, humid climates.

What causes heat rash?

In babies, heat rash can be
caused by well-meaning parents who dress their baby too warmly, but it can
happen to any baby in very hot weather. A baby should be dressed as an adult
would be to be comfortable at the same temperature and activity level. Babies’
hands and feet may feel cool to your touch but that does not mean they need to
be dressed too warmly in hot weather.

What are the symptoms of heat rash?

Heat rash
looks like dots or tiny pimples. In young children, heat rash can appear on the
head, neck, and shoulders. The rash areas can get irritated by clothing or
scratching, and, in rare cases, a secondary skin infection may develop.

How is heat rash diagnosed?

Heat rash can usually
be identified by its appearance and does not usually require medical attention.
But if it doesn’t go away after 3 or 4 days, or if it appears to be getting
worse, or if your child develops a fever, contact your doctor
right away.

When you or your child has a rash, be sure to
watch for signs of infection, including:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth
    around the affected area.
  • Red streaks extending from the affected
  • Drainage of pus from the area.
  • Swollen lymph
    nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin.
  • Fever of
    100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or
    chills with no other known cause.

If any of these symptoms develop, contact your doctor immediately.

What is the treatment for heat rash?

Most prickly
heat rashes heal on their own. The following steps can help relieve

  • Start by removing or loosening your baby’s clothing and
    move him or her to a cool, shady spot.
  • Let the skin air-dry instead
    of using towels.
  • Avoid ointments or other lotions, because
    they can irritate the skin.

The following tips can help prevent future episodes of
the rash:

  • Dress your child in as few clothes as
    possible during hot weather.
  • Keep the skin cool and
  • Keep the sleeping area cool.

After the rash is gone, gradually expose your child to
warmer temperatures so that his or her skin can acclimate.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017