Child scratching the back of her neck: potential heat rash symptoms

Have you noticed red patches on your baby’s skin? These may be symptoms of baby heat rash, commonly known as prickly heat. While these itchy patches often resolve on their own, it's essential to distinguish them from other potential skin conditions. Learn more here.


In this guide, we’ll look at: 

Child scratching the back of her neck: potential heat rash symptoms



Is your baby experiencing discomfort and itchiness? Baby heat rash, also known as prickly heat or miliaria, is a common skin condition in babies and young children. These heat rash symptoms appear as small red spots caused by sweat trapped under the skin, often in active sweat gland areas like the neck, armpits, and diaper region. While generally not a serious concern, it can cause discomfort. Fortunately, baby heat rash often resolves on its own.1 However it is crucial to distinguish it from other types of rashes.

A note to all moms: Be attentive to non-heat rashes that mimic baby heat rash symptoms. Promptly seek medical attention for rashes accompanied by fever. Ensure your baby's well-being by recognizing and understanding various rashes as they develop.

While this guide can serve as a useful reference, it is important not to consider it a definitive diagnosis. If you have any concerns about your child's rash, it is always recommended to seek advice from a paediatrician for personalised insights into your little one's specific case.


Types of Baby Rash That May Be Mistaken For Heat Rash Symptoms

There are several types of baby rash that appear on your baby’s skin that are completely natural and should clear up without being treated7. It’s important to remember that not all rashes are harmful and require immediate treatment.


Distinguishing Heat Rash from Other Conditions

Let's explore different types of baby rashes, especially those accompanied by itching, which is a common symptom often associated with heat rashes.

  • Baby acne

These are red patches on the face that usually appear within a month after birth. Though they may resemble heat rash symptoms, they require no treatment and will sort themselves out over time.

  • Milia

Though it’s possible to confuse these tiny white spots for heat rash symptoms, milia is a normal rash that develops when your child is born. This should clear itself up in four weeks3.

  • Erythema toxicum

This appears in newborns — usually, during the first few days after birth — as a splotchy red rash, sometimes with firm yellow or white bumps. These can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

  • Cradle cap

These are yellowish, greasy patches on your child’s scalp that usually heal in a few weeks to a few months1.

Child displaying heat rash symptoms


Heat Rash Symptoms? Lookalike Conditions That Require Medical Attention

Though there are several rashes that resolve on their own, there are also conditions that require a visit to your paediatrician. Below are types of baby rashes that may resemble heat rash symptoms, often associated with allergies or infections, and may present additional symptoms, like fever, which will require medical attention.

  • Hives

One of the more uncomfortable types of rashes is hives, which is a condition also referred to as urticaria. This condition involves raised, itchy red rashes that usually appear as an allergic reaction to food3, insect bites, medicine,2 and other environmental factors like dust mites, pollen, and pet dander.

This type of rash usually clears up after a few days. But if you suspect that it is caused by a food allergy, it’s best to consult your paediatrician. 

Remember: Hives can sometimes lead to a more serious, emergency condition called anaphylaxis. If you notice the child has trouble breathing, vomiting, or other alarming signs, seek medical help right away.8 It's important to act quickly in such situations. It's crucial to get antihistamines prescribed at the correct dose only by a healthcare professional.1

  • Eczema

If your baby has scaly, red, dry, and itchy patches, especially behind the knees, elbows, and neck, this could be eczema1

The most common type of eczema in children is atopic eczema, which starts in childhood but can last all the way to adulthood3. This can be treated with creams and lotions. It’s best to consult your paediatrician for the best treatment options for allergic rash symptoms such as these.

  • Slapped Cheek Syndrome

If your child has a fever and bright red cheeks, this could be a sign of an infection called slapped cheek syndrome3. Also known as erythema infectiosum, this can sometimes come with a cold1 and the rash can spread to the chest area with a raised, lace-like appearance, and it may be itchy at times2.

This condition is caused by a parvovirus B19 infection and is contagious during its incubation stage. But once the rashes appear, they are no longer contagious2.

  • Chickenpox

Chickenpox, which is commonly mistaken for heat rash symptoms, starts out as small red spots that turn into blisters all over your child’s body1. This is caused by the varicella zoster virus and usually resolves by itself in healthy children. And while the infection typically occurs in childhood, it can come at any time2.

This is one of the more contagious types of baby rashes, so you should keep your child away from other children until all of the blisters have scabbed over. 

If your baby is less than 28 weeks old and contracts chickenpox, consult your paediatrician immediately2.

  • Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral illness characterised by blistery rashes on your child’s palms and feet, as well as ulcers in their mouth3. In some instances, your child may have a fever and a sore throat along with the rashes1.

This type of baby rash usually resolves itself after a week without treatment, especially if your child has a healthy immune system

In conclusion, understanding and recognising baby heat rash symptoms are essential for every parent. While these red patches often resolve on their own, being aware of potential lookalike rashes and conditions requiring medical attention ensures your baby's well-being. Stay informed, and keep your little one happy and comfortable.

Have other concerns about heat rash symptoms or your baby’s skin health? Join the Enfamama A+ Club community today to connect with other moms and experts. Enjoy numerous privileges and benefits, which include exclusive vouchers, promotions, expert advice, Free samples and much more! 

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Want to know more? Here we answer a few frequently asked questions about baby heat rash symptoms.

  1. Is heat rash the same as diaper rash? How to prevent it?7

Diaper rash is one type of heat rash, but there may be other causes of diaper rashes. Typically, diaper rash is a type of skin irritation due to wet or soiled diapers. To avoid diaper rash, consider changing your baby’s diapers often, allowing your baby’s skin to dry between changes. When washing their diaper area, use mild soap and warm water to rinse, and use only alcohol-free, unscented baby wipes. For added protection, you may try applying unscented petroleum jelly to the skin. 

On the other hand, in order to avoid baby heat rash, keep your child cool and away from places that are excessively hot and humid. Also, make sure that they wear comfortable cotton clothing. Keep your baby hydrated as well. In cases where the rash is very itchy, you can use topical calamine lotion to help reduce the itching.2

  1. When should I bring my baby to the doctor for rashes?1 

If your child has a rash and it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, go to the doctor immediately:

  • A stiff neck

  • Light sensitivity

  • Confusion

  • High body temperature or fever

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fast breathing 

  • Bluish or greyish discoloration of the skin, lips, or tongue

  1. Do rashes present differently on different skin tones?1

Yes. To ensure that you are able to spot rashes on your baby or toddler, you may want to also check their palms, soles of their feet, mouth, tongue, and inside of their eyelids for any skin changes. This is especially helpful if your baby has a darker skin tone.


Related articles:

  1. Skin to skin contact: Prompting emotional stability, improving immunity and strengthening the bond with your child
  2. How to calm a crying baby
  3. How to change a diaper
  4. Baby nursery room checklist: preparing baby’s nursery


Expert Resource:
Dr Veena Angle
MBBS, MD Microbiology (India)

  1. ”Rashes in babies and children.” NHS. Accessed 29 November 2020.

  2. Trivedi, Ashifa. “Rashes in children.” The Pharmaceutical Journal. 13 June 2017. Accessed 29 November 2020.

  3. “Skin rashes in babies.” nidirect. Accessed 29 November 2020.

  4. “Slapped cheek syndrome”. NHSinform. Accessed from

  5. “Chickenpox: Controlling the Itch”. Michigan Medicine. Accessed from

  6. ”Chickenpox”. Mayo Clinic. Accessed from

  7. ”Skin care for babies.” Paediatr Child Health. 2007 Mar; 12(3): 245–247. Accessed from NCBI - National Institute of Health.

  8. Cleveland Clinic. Hives in Children. Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/03/2022.