Yes, it’s normal to feel anxious when you spot a rash on your baby – and if you're worried or your baby seems unwell, you should see your GP – but it could just be caused by him getting too warm.
What is heat rash?
Heat rash (also known as prickly heat) often appears on babies in hot weather. ‘They’re more prone to it as they have more difficulty regulating their body temperature,’ says health visitor Penny Lazell. ‘When it’s hot or humid outside, your baby will sweat just like you do, to cool down. If he continues sweating, his skin pores start to clog because they’re not fully developed.’ This can cause the rash to appear.
It occurs in areas that don’t get much ventilation, such as the back of the neck, those chubby skin creases, or where he might have several layers of clothing snug against her skin, like her chest or under her nappy.
Symptoms of heat rash
A baby or toddler with heat rash could show any of the below symptoms according to the NHS:
Small red spots.
An itchy, prickly feeling.
Redness and mild swelling.
This generally develops on the neck, arms or around the edges of the nappy. ‘It may even appear where a baby is wearing a hat across the scalp or on the forehead and tends to be bright red and pimply,’ says Penny. Prickly heat rash is not painful but can be uncomfortable as it may cause itching. Sometimes the pimples may be sensitive to touch.
How to avoid heat rash
While it's not serious, understandably you'll be keen to avoid your child experiencing heat rash. The main goal is to keep your baby's skin cool and keep a close eye on your baby during the warm weather. You should also:
Dress your child in lightweight, loose cotton clothing.
Use lightweight bedding and the correct tog sleeping bags.
Run cool baths for your little one or even better - fill up the paddling pool!
Ensure your little one is drinking plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration.
What you can do to help heat rash
Heat rash in itself is not serious. It is just a sign that your baby is too warm. ‘However, if your baby has heat rash it’s important that that you take measures to cool him down,’ says Penny. ‘Babies cannot regulate their temperatures very well so need you to do it for them by taking off items of clothing and removing them from the source of heat.’ Remember, if the source of heat is not reduced your baby may become dehydrated very quickly.
‘Remove clothes and place your baby in a light cotton vest – synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester trap heat,’ says Penny. ‘You could try cooling his skin by laying damp cool flannels over his body, while dabbing on some calamine lotion can help ease irritation on the skin.’
A ‘magic spray’ also works wonders: fill a spray bottle with tepid water and have some fun!
When to seek advice
You need to ask for advice if your baby has a fever that does not respond to medication. ‘If your baby becomes floppy or unresponsive or if a rash doesn’t disappear when pressed with a clear glass, go straight to A&E, as it could be a sign of meningitis,’ says Penny. If the rash appears to be getting worse or is still persisting after 3-4 days you should also see your doctor.
‘If the rash is itchy an antihistamine medicine can be given but always ask for advice from your GP or pharmacist before giving it to your baby,’ says Penny.
Read next on Mother&Baby:
Read more: Baby heat stroke
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