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Baby Heat Rash vs Eczema: What’s the Difference

Little baby boy crying hard.

It’s summertime and you may be spotting different blotches and rashes on your baby. Heat rash and eczema are two common baby skin conditions seen in many of our babies. Both can appear during the first 6 months of babyhood, and both skin conditions can appear as a red rash on the body- so you may be asking yourself “heat rash vs eczema: what’s the difference”? Dr. Amy and the Baby Pibu team share how to spot both of them and how to tell the difference between heat rash and eczema.

Spotting Baby Heat Rash

Heat rash is also known as prickly heat or miliaria rubra. It typically appears as red, itchy, pimply-like little bumps or even blisters. Babies tend to be especially susceptible to heat rash. When our body gets overheated, it sweats in an effort to cool down. With heat rash, the sweat ducts and pores get clogged up, resulting in the small bumps and irritation that you see on the skin. Because a baby’s pores are so much smaller than an adult’s, heat rash is more common in babies.

Spotting Baby eczema

Individuals with eczema have sensitive skin, that when it gets too irritated or dry, can result in rashy skin. Rashy eczema patches appear as ill-defined erythematous, dry patches of skin. These areas are typically itchy and will be excoriated from your baby or child scratching at the areas. Eczema typically affects different body areas based on age. From 1 month old to 2 years old, eczema most commonly afflicts baby’s cheeks and the outer sides of the arms and legs. If you see this affecting your baby’s cheeks or arms and legs, start soothing it immediately with a heavy-duty moisturizing ointment like Baby Pibu Hydrating ointment.

Differences between heat rash and baby eczema

  • Both conditions can be triggered by heat and have flares during the summertime.
  • Both conditions are erythematous and red. HOWEVER, heat rash is bumpy with blister-like lesions whereas baby eczema appears as raised itchy patches.
  • Both conditions can be improved with topical OTC 1% hydrocortisone (a topical corticosteroid). HOWEVER heavier moisturizing ointments will improve baby eczema while aggravate heat rash.

How do you treat heat rash and baby eczema?

Heat Rash

  • Here are a few things to avoid to prevent heat rash:
    • Long periods that your baby is in a baby carrier.
    • Too much swaddling. Swaddling is a great thing to help your baby sleep but avoid a full outfit of clothes with swaddling. Try just having your baby in a onesie when your baby is swaddled. Also, make sure the room temperature is cool enough.
    • Synthetic clothing dry quickly but may not allow your baby’s skin to “breathe.” Choose loose fitting light cotton clothing for your baby.
  • Consider hydrocortisone. If you need your baby’s skin to look perfect for photos or a visit from family, you can consider using an over-the-counter (OTC) 1% hydrocortisone cream. DO NOT use hydrocortisone for longer than 2 to 3 days.
Protect and Treat Baby Eczema with Baby Pibu

Baby Eczema

  • Moisturize, moisturize! Use a good natural moisturizer for baby eczema cream (not a lotion, which is mostly made of water) after each and every bath to lock in moisture. Baby Pibu’s Baby Butter and Hydrating Ointment are a cream and ointment that is recommended.
  • Heat can trigger an eczema flare. Use a cool washcloth or cool water bottle to cool your baby’s skin when you notice your baby getting a bit too warm.
  • Consider hydrocortisone as well. OTC 1% hydrocortisone is an anti-inflammatory that can settle an eczema flare. DO NOT use hydrocortisone for longer than 2 to 3 days.

If your baby’s case of heat rash or baby eczema worsens while trying the above tips, the Baby Pibu team recommends that you contact your baby’s pediatrician or dermatologist for further recommendations.

Dr. Amy and the Baby Pibu team hope that you and your baby can enjoy summertime a bit more by avoiding a case of heat rash or baby eczema.


Click here to learn more about Eczema.