Hikes, cookouts, and lazy afternoons are a few of the reasons I love this season. On the other hand, we could certainly do without the bug bites, sweating, sunburn, and heat rash. These conditions can affect anyone on a summer day, but it’s the infant they threaten the most. And because our family is always outdoors, we need to be extra watchful of baby heat rash.
How Heat Rash Is Different
Heat rash is unique. Although you may be used to treating the typical rashes on baby’s bottom, the irritation that comes when a baby overheats appears in the form of tiny bumps. The neck, chest, and shoulders are where you’ll most likely see the rash develop, but it can ultimately show up anywhere on the body.
What’s to Blame
Your child’s immature sweat glands can clash with the perfect set of circumstances to give him or her heat rash at the most unexpected time of day. And these circumstances can include a variety of factors. According to Mayo Clinic, young and underdeveloped sweat ducts make it hard for sweat to escape, trapping in a way adult skin doesn’t usually allow. Children at this age also can’t voice their discomfort early enough to treat it, so with all the layers—an insulated synthetic diaper, infant seat padding, and the like—it’s understandable that baby heat rash makes an occasional appearance.
Your first line of defense against baby heat rash is not a topical treatment, but to change the circumstances of its formation. Before reaching for a product, take your little one out of the sun and into an air-conditioned space if possible, but don’t hold him or her directly in front of the unit. If air conditioning isn’t available, seek some shade and fan your child with a piece of paper or, my favorite, a personal spray mister. My kids enjoy a quick (closely supervised) game of “funny voices” in front of a box fan, and this can make the experience more relaxing.
If you see your baby scratching, distract from the itchiness with a crinkly toy or light-up gadget. Scratching can open the skin further, which introduces bacterial or even viral infection.
Once he or she is in a cooler state, the rash should clear up. No further skin rash treatment is usually needed, although you should prevent recurrence by avoiding the same heat that gave your baby heat rash the first unpleasant time around.
When in doubt, stay cool. Dress our kids in light, breathable fabrics if you’re going out, and stay in the shade if you’re settling down. Air conditioning should be on when in the car for long trips, of course, but don’t be afraid to recruit older siblings to keep an eye on your youngest. Is he/she sweating? Fussing?
Watch your ingredients, too. My rash-affected baby was almost six weeks premature, and was hospitalized for sepsis not long after he was born. One of the surprising things we learned during that time was how sunflower seed oil was so applauded in the medical community for aiding the skin barrier in infants who are susceptible to infection. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “treatment with sunflower seed oil resulted in a significant improvement in skin condition,” not to mention lower infection rates. That experience stuck with me, and I began reading labels on all the lotions I apply to our little man. These days, I only use a fragrance-free baby diaper cream to keep his diaper area clean and happy.
At the end of the day, you want to keep your baby squeaky clean. Those adorable rolls of skin make a great environment for bacteria or even yeast to grow, so keep skin folds clean with mild baby soap—even when you don’t have time for a full bath.
Mama Called the Doctor and the Doctor Said…
If within twenty-four hours of cooling down your baby’s skin does not return to normal, it’s time to call your doctor. Most pediatricians have a “warm line” or advice nurse on call to answer non-urgent questions or appointment requests. Take full advantage of this service if ever there’s something about your little one’s skin you’re unfamiliar with. Heat rash that doesn’t go away may be a sign of a different condition, and it’s important for it to be seen right away.
What other ways do you keep your baby’s risk low? Tweet your ideas—and adorable pictures—to @TomsofMaine.
Image sources: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.