What is cradle cap?
If your baby’s scalp has flaky, dry skin that looks like dandruff, or thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches, it’s probably cradle cap. Doctors call it infantile seborrheic dermatitis. It’s very common in infants, but it’s harmless, and the good news is that it is temporary. It shows up most often in the first few months of life and usually clears up on its own in about six to 12 months, although some children have it for longer, and in some cases it can affect toddlers as well. Despite the name, it can involve not only the scalp, but also the face and other parts of the body. You might notice the same condition around your baby’s ears or eyebrows, on his eyelids, or even in his armpits and other creases, it can extend to the diaper area as well.
To most of us there’s nothing as precious, innocent or defenseless as a baby, and the slightest idea that a baby could be uncomfortable makes hard to look at such a skin condition on your baby without wanting to do something about it, but try your best to remember that it is painless.
What causes cradle cap?
The exact cause of cradle cap is still unknown. The disorder affects babies who have a hyperactive sebaceous gland or oil-producing gland. Newborn babies normally still have their mother’s hormones in their circulatory system. If the mother has an overactive oily gland, it may also be present in the baby for a period of time. The glands may bring about Cradle cap. The disorder is also supposed to be caused by skin yeasts. But we do know that cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene or allergies, it is not contagious, and it probably doesn’t bother your baby at all, although if it gets severe it might itch.
In a few cases, such as in babies who have eczema or dry skin, cradle cap can cause cracked skin that itches and oozes a small amount of clear yellow drainage.
Symptoms of cradle cap:
• Cradle cap is marked by the appearance of red, scaly rashes on the scalp. After a few days, the scales accumulate to form thick, yellow plaques. These look like scabs stuck to the scalp skin. This thick layer may form a covering on the entire scalp.
• Redness and scaling on eyelids, in the creases of the neck and armpits, and behind the ears.
• It may also start spreading to the face and diaper area
How should I treat my baby’s cradle cap?
Because it’s so common, it’s not a bad idea to try to prevent cradle cap before it even starts. It turns out that regular shampooing of your baby’s scalp is a simple but effective way to stave off the scales, remember cradle cap thrives on oily skin, and so it might be best to avoid using oily substances on your baby’s head.
Wash your baby’s hair daily with a mild, unscented shampoo. Once the cradle cap starts reducing, limit washing the hair to 2 – 3 times a week. Gently massage your baby’s scalp with your fingers and use the brush while shampooing to loosen the scales. Be sure to rinse out all the soap and shampoo – to prevent an oil build-up. This along with a soft brushing will help remove the scales. Pulling them off can irritate the skin which can lead to an infection.
Using oils such as mineral oil, olive oil and petroleum jelly, can also help loosen the scales – but we sure to rinse the hair properly if you use oily substances.
If the skin doesn’t improve or gets worse, it’s time to call the pediatrician. He might suggest medicated shampoo’s or a cortisone cream or lotion, such as 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, which you can get over the counter at pharmacies.
Lastly remember to be patient, cradle cap is harmless and in most cases painless. It is very common in infants, and usually disappears over a period of weeks or months. It usually goes away on its own, and sometimes doing nothing about it is also a cure.