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Heat Rash


  • A fine pink rash caused by overheating
  • Mainly on the neck, chest, and upper back

Symptoms of Heat Rash

  • Tiny, pink bumps
  • Mainly on the neck, chest and upper back
  • Occurs during hot, humid weather or after lots of sun
  • Heat rash can be itchy
  • Older children may have a "prickly" pins and needles feeling
  • In babies, the rash can have some tiny water blisters
  • No fever or illness
  • Also called "prickly heat"

Causes of Heat Rash

  • Heat rash is caused by blocked-off sweat glands.
  • Hot Weather. Hot, humid weather can cause the sweat glands to be overworked.
  • Ointment. Babies can also get it in the wintertime from ointments put on the skin. Reason: ointments can block off sweat glands.
  • Location. Heat rash of the forehead can be caused by oil or ointment on the hair. Heat rash of the face of a breastfed baby can be caused by lanolin put on the nipples. Heat rash of the chest can be caused by menthol ointments put on for coughs.
  • Exercise. Older children can get heat rash with hard exercise.

When To Call

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Fever and looks infected (spreading redness or pus)
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Looks infected (spreading redness, pus), but no fever
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Rash is not gone after 3 days of treatment
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Heat Rash

Care Advice

What You Should Know About Heat Rash:

  • Heat rash is caused by blocked-off sweat glands.
  • It's common in hot, humid weather.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.

Cooling the Skin:

  • Cool off the skin to treat and prevent heat rash.
  • For large rashes, give your child a cool bath without soap. Do this for 10 minutes. Caution: avoid any chill. Let the skin air-dry. Do this 3 or more times a day.
  • For small rashes, put a cool, wet washcloth on the area. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes. Then let the skin air-dry.
  • Dress in as few layers of clothing as you can.
  • Lower the temperature in your home if you can.

Sleeping Cooler:

  • When your child is asleep, run a fan in the bedroom.
  • During sleep, have your child lie on a cotton towel to absorb sweat. Note: only for older children age over 1 year.

Steroid Cream for Itching:

  • Use 1% hydrocortisone cream (such as Cortaid). No prescription is needed.
  • Put it on itchy spots 3 times per day.
  • Avoid hydrocortisone ointment.
  • Calamine lotion can also work.

Do Not Use Ointments:

  • Avoid all ointments or oils on the skin. Reason: They can block off sweat glands.
  • Be sure the rash isn't caused by a menthol ointment being used for a cough.

What to Expect:

  • With treatment, heat rash will clear up in 2 to 3 days.

Call Your Doctor If:

  • Rash lasts more than 3 days on this treatment
  • Rash starts to look infected
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse


Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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