Cradle Cap In Babies

4 min read

What Is A Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap is a relatively common condition found in newborns. This is an infantile form of dandruff that is found among adults and older kids. It causes rough, greasy, yellow scaly patches on the baby’s scalp. Over the course of time, these scales start to become flaky and come out of the scalp commonly with bits of baby’s hair attached.
Cradle cap infection
This is a harmless and temporary condition and usually not itchy and will not cause any irritation for the baby. It gets itchy only when it gets severe.

Is Cradle Cap Contagious?

No, cradle cap is neither contagious nor reflects any carelessness in hygiene towards the child. Bacterial infection, allergy or poor hygiene are not the reasons behind this condition.

Is Cradle Cap Confined To The Scalp Of The Child?

Even though cradle cap starts as scaling and redness of the scalp, it is found extend to the areas like eyebrows, eyelids, back of ear lobes, crease of the nose, armpits, back of the neck, diaper area and back of knees where there are a higher number of oil producing sebaceous glands. Once the scaling spreads to other parts the condition is called ‘seborrheic dermatitis’.

Which Age Group Is More Affected By Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap generally appears during the baby’s first two months. But sometimes older babies and toddlers are also known to get cradle is very common in babies younger than eight months. It usually disappears on its own between 6 to 12 months, though some babies have it for longer.

What Are The Symptoms Of Cradle Cap?

The looks and symptoms of cradle cap vary with babies. The most common symptoms and signs of cradle cap on babies comprise of the following signs:

  • The scalp covers with greasy, yellow scaly patches
  • Thick crusts are also found to form in the scalp
  • Mild redness is also found to develop sometimes
  • Skin flakes (similar to dandruff) is another sign of cradle cap
  • Hair loss is also sometimes associated with cradle cap. The hair will grow back when the cradle cap disappears

What Are The Causes Of Cradle Cap?

The exact reason for cradle cap is not yet found. Still, the possible reasons that have been zeroed out are:

  • The over production of sebum (skin oil) in the oil glands of scalp and hair follicle. This overly produced oil interferes with the natural shedding of the dead skin creating the build-up of dead skin over the scalp of the baby
  • The over production of oil in baby’s skin is associated with the mother’s pregnancy hormones that pumped into the blood stream of the baby. These hormones stimulate the oil production
  • A type of fungus called Malassezia is found to grow in the overproduced sebum and is considered as another factor which causes cradle cap
  • Problems with the immune system of the infant increase the chances of having cradle cap. The immune system sometimes overreacts to the presence of normal yeast on the baby’s scalp. This over reaction of immune system cause inflammation
  • Weather extremes like too cold and too hot are found to trigger cradle cap among infants

Mother brushing baby

How Can Cradle Cap Be Treated?

As the cradle cap generally clears by itself without even leaving any scar with in few weeks or months, treatment is not needed is most of the cases. Cradle cap can get rid of easily by:

  • Massaging regularly the scalp by baby oil or soft paraffin before bathing the baby
  • Brushing the hair and scalp using a soft brush so that some of the scales may get loosened before washing the hair
  • Using mild shampoo regularly to wash out the applied oil or paraffin
  • Some parents say that using shampoos prescribed by the doctors have been proved to be effective

This method will help the crust to soften in due course of time. Once it softens it can be easily lift off by using a cotton bud or soft brush

When To Seek Medical Help For Cradle Cap?

Generally, the cradle cap will clear by simply following the above tips. However, consulting a pediatrician is recommended:

  • When the rashes turn red and the baby tends to scratch on it
  • When cradle cap shows no improvement even after following the simple treatments at home
  • When cradle cap starts spreading to other parts of the body.
  • When the affected skin becomes firm and starts to ooze out fluid or feel warm. Both are indications of an infection and require medical help. Doctor will prescribe some pediatric anti-fungal cream or shampoo which will help to eradicate the infections

What Should Not Be Done For Cradle Cap In Infants?

  • Never force the crusts off the scalp. This may lead to damage and the bleeding of the skin of the infant’s scalp. These sore patches could be infectious
  • Never use adult’s anti-dandruff shampoo to wash the scalp of the infant. The harmful chemicals in the shampoo will damage the hair follicles of the baby. Some of the chemicals in such shampoos are toxic and can be absorbed through the skin
  • If the cradle cap is cured and then comes back don’t worry. The coming back of cradle cap just means that the baby’s glands are still making extra oil. And this will stop when the mother’s hormones leave the baby’s blood stream in due course of time
  • Avoid using olive oil for massaging the scalp as it damages baby’s outer layer of skin of the scalp

How Can Cradle Cap In Babies Be Prevented?

As the cradle cap can occur as the result of mother’s pregnancy hormones get into the blood stream of the baby, a hundred percent prevention is not possible. However, giving some attention to the scalp of the baby minimize the chances of having cradle cap.

  • Shampoo the baby’s scalp (with mild baby shampoo) thrice a week. This will help to prevent the accumulation of oil in the skin
  • Once the scalp shows the signs of dryness call your pediatrician for quick remedies
  • Never over wash the hair as over washing can be back fire and the oil production may increase significantly
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