Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Heat Rash

Is this your child's symptom?

  • 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 for Heat Rash

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

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

Call 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

Call 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

Estimated Urgent Care Wait Times

These are estimated wait times for each Urgent Care clinic. Wait times are typically longest during the first hour we are open and may not be reflected immediately in the online wait time. Traffic and wait times may be affected by local events or bridge closures. Please check current traffic conditions and advisory alerts on the Seattle Department of Transportation website

Wait times may also vary depending on the severity of the illnesses we are treating. If your child’s illness or injury is life-threating, call 911.

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

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended 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.

Last Reviewed: 12/14/2012

Last Revised: 12/14/2012

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.