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Feeling the Itch: What to Do if Your Baby Has a Heat Rash

Malaysia’s hot and humid weather can prompt a heat rash in babies. Taking steps to prevent sweating and keep the skin cool can ward off the condition’s onset.

A baby on the bed with the parent rubbing lotion on the baby’s skin

A heat rash transpires when the body’s sweat glands are blocked or inflamed. Sweat gets trapped under the skin, resulting in the development of small-sized spots or blisters, with an itchy and mild swelling. 

The onset of a heat rash commonly affects babies, especially during the first few weeks of life. In light-skinned babies, the rash can appear as small, red-coloured spots or blisters. Dark-skinned babies will have similar symptoms but, in a brown, grey, or purplish shade. The blisters can also be exposed to bacteria, causing an infection, and increasing the risk of more serious medical issues such as ulcerations.  

Read on to learn the origins of a heat rash in babies and the steps parents can take to manage the symptoms of the condition.

What are the Causes of a Heat Rash in Babies?

Child with long hair with a drop of sweat on her face looking towards the right
Increased sweating can clog sweat glands and trigger a heat rash in babies and children.

A possible cause is Malaysia’s hot weather and humidity levels. Precipitation – products of condensation that freezes in the atmosphere before falling to the ground – happens regularly throughout the year.

However, Malaysia experiences a southwest monsoon wind between May and September. This wind type is characterised by prolonged dry spells and lesser amounts of precipitation and clouds. 

This weather change can lead to excessive sweating in babies and clogging sweat glands. These glands may continue to secrete sweat, accumulating in the sweat ducts in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). The latter will eventually rupture due to an increase in pressure. 

Sweat will seep into the surrounding tissues, provoking the appearance of a heat rash on the face, neck, and skin folds. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes a heat rash stems from trapped sweat in the skin. Eu Yan Sang Physician Lee Shin Wei explains, “Babies typically have weak defensive qi (vital life force), which causes them to produce higher amounts of sweat. If a baby’s skin surface is unprotected, pathogenic Heat and Dampness can penetrate the skin and trigger a heat rash onset.” 

How Can Parents Treat a Heat Rash in Babies at Home?

Man wiping a child’s body with a white cloth
Small heat rash areas can be treated with the application of a cool, wet washcloth.

In clinical treatment, the primary goals for a heat rash are to cool the skin and manage skin itching. Parents can achieve these by:  

  • Lowering the temperature of their homes  
  • Outfitting their babies in as few layers of clothing as possible 
  • Applying calamine lotion to rash areas, thrice daily 
  • Putting a cool and wet washcloth on an affected area for five to 10 minutes before letting their babies’ skin air-dry (for small rash areas) 

The Role of Traditional Remedies in Preventing and Alleviating Heat Rash in Babies 

According to Physician Lee, TCM treatments can prevent and treat the condition holistically. 

Treatment options that can prevent a heat rash onset 

Parents can feed their babies Qi Xing Heat Clearing tea (七星茶) or Coix seeds (yi yi ren, 薏苡仁). These clear Heat, strengthen the Spleen, and dispel Dampness

Herbal showers, baths, or foot soaks can help clear Heat and lower your child’s risk of developing the condition. It involves using Qi Xing Heat Clearing tea or Momordica vine (ku gua, 苦瓜).

Treatment options to address the root causes of a heat rash

Baby with heat rash on his back lying on his stomach
Cleaning your baby’s skin with a herbal bath made with mint leaves can help reduce itchiness.

If your baby has been diagnosed with the condition, treatment will focus on eliminating Heat and dispelling Dampness. It’ll comprise three components – a paediatric Chinese massage, diet therapy, and herbal baths – that are preferable to herbal medication. 

“Paediatric massages require a TCM practitioner to massage the tian he acupoint and perform abdominal rubbing and an open yin-yang (passive-active energy) technique,” recommends Physician Lee.

For consumption, “A beverage made with winter melon (dong gua, 冬瓜) or soup prepared using mung beans (lu dou, 绿豆) and jujubes (da zao, 大枣) can also be consumed,” she says. “Herbs like mint (bo he, 薄荷), chrysanthemum (ju hua, 菊花), and honeysuckle (jin yin hua, 金银花) can be used to bathe a baby twice daily. Herbal bath formulas that contain mint and bitter gourd may also be used.”  

If your baby’s heat rash doesn’t heal within three days, you should seek immediate medical attention. Consult a healthcare provider if your baby develops a fever or if the rash appears to be spreading.

When considering an alternative treatment approach, it’s best to speak to a TCM practitioner beforehand. It’ll help ensure that the prescribed remedies are compatible with your baby’s body constitution.

References

  1. Raising Children Network (Australia). Heat rash. [online] [Accessed 7 September 2022]
  2. ResearchGate. 2018. Southwest monsoon onset dates over Malaysia and associated climatological characteristics. [online] [Accessed 7 September 2022]
  3. Seattle Children’s Hospital. Heat Rash. [online] [Accessed 7 September 2022]

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