Children's Hospital Colorado

Heat Rash

Urgent or Emergency Care?

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  • 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.

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 for Heat Rash

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. What to Expect:
    • With treatment, heat rash will clear up in 2 to 3 days.
  7. 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


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

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