Cradle cap, also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, is a skin condition sometimes seen in babies caused by excessive production of sebum (oil), characterized by areas of yellowish or brownish scales on the top of the head. Cradle cap is a common condition in newborns. Cradle cap is fairly harmless and resolves by itself as the baby grows within 6-12 months. In some cases, the condition may persist up to 2-3 years but eventually recedes by itself.
What Causes Cradle Cap?
The exact cause of this condition is unknown. However, it is believed that it results due to over activity of the oil glands situated in the skin of the scalp hat cause production of too much oil. It is speculated to be caused by overstimulation of the oil producing glands of the baby due to exposure to maternal hormones. Still others hypothesize that cradle cap may result from irritation caused by a yeast that commonly grows within the oil producing sebaceous glands.
Cradle cap is neither a form of allergy and nor the result of unhygienic conditions. It is merely the inflammation of the skin covering the scalp. Contrary to the popular belief, the condition is not contagious and cannot spread from one person to another.
How Does It Manifest?
Cradle cap is a form of infantile eczema. You can consult a pediatrician online in order to know the signs and symptoms of cradle cap in newborns, which include
- Patchy scaling or thick crusts on the scalp
- Greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales
- Presence of similar scales on the ears, eyelids, nose and groin
- Severe skin itching
- Redness of skin due to skin scratching in older kids
How Is It Diagnosed?
Thorough examination of the scalp in newborn children helps confirm the diagnosis.
How Is It Managed?
Here are some simple home tips that can help manage cradle cap quite effectively.
- Gentle massage of the scalp can help loosen the scales and they eventually come off easily by themselves.
- Shampoo the baby’s head daily to soften and remove the scales. Use baby shampoos for this purpose since they are gentle to the baby’s skin. Once the amount of flakes reduces, the frequency of shampooing can be reduced to 2-3 times a week, continuing till the condition resolves completely.
- Brush the baby’s hair with a brush that has soft bristles. After brushing, always clean the brush thoroughly in order to avoid any residual flakes and grease.
- Applying mineral oils, such as olive oil or almond oil, on the scalp and covering the baby’s head with a warm washcloth can help soften the scales when all other measures fail.
- Older children tend to scratch the scalp skin since it causes irritation. Frequent scratching can lead to skin inflammation and infection for which doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics.
- Worsening of the condition instead of resolving
- Oozing of fluid or pus from the patches on scalp
- Fever (indicates infection)
- Spread of the scales beyond the scalp