A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Kids and heat rash: How to prevent prickly heat

Baby standing in diaper - Prickly heat

Heat rash, or prickly heat, is common in infants, toddlers and young children during warmer months.

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is common in infants, toddlers and young children during warmer months.

“Children have less developed sweat glands and sometimes rolls of skin or skin folds where sweat sits,” said Dr. Laurie Peterson, a Marshfield Clinic urgent care and pediatrics physician.

Prickly heat comes in the form of small, red, itchy bumps.

Causes of heat rash

Humidity and heat, which increase sweating, cause prickly heat. Children may break out with heat rash after a hot day, intense exercise or overdressing.

“Some parents overdress their children because they’re worried about baby being too cold, but the extra layers may actually be the very thing causing the problem,” Peterson said.

Babies require no more than one additional layer than you need.

Treatments for heat rash

“In general, you can treat heat rash the same way you would prevent it,” Peterson said.

Avoid what makes prickly heat worse: humidity and heat.

  • Bring your child inside to air conditioning.
  • Remove extra layers or put on lighter clothing.
  • Give your child a cool bath or wet cloths.

Avoid itching

Encourage your child to avoid itching. Scratching can spread rashes.

Help relieve itching by applying over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream or giving OTC antihistamine.

When to call a provider

“Heat rash should not come with other symptoms,” Peterson said. “If your child is extremely irritable or has a fever and aches, there may be another diagnosis. Call your provider.”

Most times, prickly heat heals in a few days on its own. Consider calling your child’s provider when:

  • At-home measures do not help after one week.
  • The rash is becoming wide spread.
  • Additional symptoms are present.

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