Monday, July 22, 2013

Heat Rash: What It Is and How to Treat It

I live in the desert. From mid-June through August, the temperature is almost always over 100 degrees and, lately, we've had temperatures hovering around 115 degrees. These extreme temperatures combined with my children's uber-sensitive skin inevitably lead to heat rash. When Lila got a particularly bad case of heat rash this summer, I decided I should learn a little more about heat rash and what to do to treat it (other than "wait for it to go away," my old standby method). And, luckily for you, I've decided to share what I learned.

What is Heat Rash?
Heat rash is, essentially, clogged pores. We sweat to cool down. When we sweat too much, our pores can clog, causing small red bumps to erupt on our skin. Anyone can get heat rash, but babies are especially prone to heat rash because their pores are so small. Heat rash is not usually painful, but it is a sign that your baby is overheated, which can lead to more serious problems.

(I like this article from for a more complete description of heat rash, if you're interested.)

How Should I Treat Heat Rash?
I used the list of treatment options from the BabyCenter article I referenced above and took the ideas for a test drive. Here is what I did and what I found to help the most:

1. Remove Baby's Clothing {Super helpful}
One of the first things I did was to strip Lila down to a diaper only. Removing her clothing helped so much that now--at least for the summer months--she basically only wears a diaper, unless we are going out. Then I dress her in loose, lightweight clothing. I have also tried just putting her in a onesie, but she still gets quite warm during her naps with any clothing on.

2. Lose the Swaddle {Utter Failure}
After removing Lila's clothes and still finding her warm upon waking from a nap, I decided to remove all that was left: her swaddle. Worst. Decision. Ever. We had one hellish day where she only took 35-40 minute naps before I decided to find a different solution.

3. Crank Up the Air {Helpful}
After I realized that getting rid of the swaddle was not an option, I decided to try making Lila's room cooler. Lila's room already has a ceiling fan that I always run at the highest setting. I don't want to even imagine what our A/C bill would be like without ceiling fans! Anyway, I decided to add an extra floor fan to her room to add a little more air flow. Honestly, the fan didn't really seem to make a difference. However, I recently removed the fan when we had guests staying at our house and I found a noticeable difference in the room temperature when the fan was gone--apparently the fan was helping cool the room more than I had realized.

4. Lukewarm Baking Soda Bath {Super helpful}
For two days (during the worst of Lila's heat rash) I gave Lila a baking soda bath using cool water. I used about 2 teaspoons of baking soda per gallon of water. I implemented the baking soda bath on day two of my heat rash treatment and almost immediately noticed a difference in the heat rash. In addition to reducing the amount of heat rash on Lila's body, the baking soda bath also really helped to cool her down.

5. Air Dry {Hard to tell--certainly didn't hurt!}
Instead of rubbing Lila dry post-bath, I patted her down with a towel. Also, per my pediatrician's suggestion, I ensured that her creases (like under her neck and between her arms) got plenty of air time. Sometimes, that meant holding her arm in the air so she could dry. If areas remain wet, baby's skin is more likely to get irritated.

6. No Lotions/Creams {Oops.}
At first, I thought Lila was just having eczema issues--all three of my kids have dry, sensitive skin, so redness is common around here. And the way I usually treat eczema is by applying aquaphor topped by a moisturizing lotion, per my pediatrician's advice. Apparently this treatment was actually making the heat rash worse by trapping moisture in to Lila's skin. Once I realized that I was dealing with heat rash, I stopped using the lotions until the heat rash cleared up. Now, while it's still so hot, I've been using a very scant layer of aquaphor as necessary for dryness.

7. Cornstarch {Super Helpful}
I didn't actually use cornstarch in my initial heat rash treatment. But, a few weeks after Lila's heat rash cleared up, her creases started to get quite irritated. So I used a very light dusting of cornstarch. The irritation cleared up immediately. Note: Do NOT use talcum powder, which is dangerous for baby to breathe!

By day two of my heat rash treatment efforts, Lila's heat rash was much improved; and by day four, the heat rash was gone altogether. We've had a few small breakouts since then, but with these treatments we've been able to avoid anything too bad.

What's your best trick for treating heat rash? Anyone have a swaddle fail like I did?