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What is Cradle Cap?

What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?


Cradle cap is a common form of seborrhoeic dermatitis that affects the scalps of young babies – hence the name.

Although it's unsightly, it won't bother your baby at all, and is one of those conditions that's worse for parents than it is for their babies.

The condition first appears on the scalp but can spread behind the ears and can even crop up elsewhere on the body, such as behind the knees, in the groin or in the armpits.

It tends to start in the first three months of life and can last weeks or months. Your child might continue to have cradle cap until he's around two years old, although in rare cases it can go on for longer.

It's not really known what causes cradle cap but it's thought to be linked to an over-production of sebum - an oily substance that keeps the skin lubricated. Some experts believe the over-production could be a result of hormonal activity in the baby after birth.

Babies with a family history of allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema seem to be more susceptible to developing cradle cap and, later on, other forms of seborrhoeic dermatitis, like dandruff.

What are the symptoms of Cradle cap?

The symptoms are yellowish, greasy, scaly patches that can look a bit like scabs and cover the scalp like a cap. The skin around the patches often looks slightly reddened, too.

What are the treatments and remedies of Cradle cap?

There's no medical treatment for cradle cap, which will eventually clear up on its own. Don't be tempted to pick at it to try and clear it as it could become infected. What you can do is rub in a little olive oil or baby oil before you put your baby down at night. This will help soften and loosen the scale. In the morning, brush your baby's scalp gently with a soft baby brush before washing their hair with a gentle baby shampoo.

If your baby's scalp shows signs of infection – if the scales become raised or start to weep or the surrounding skin looks red or inflamed - contact your health professional, who might prescribe antibiotics. Sometimes a special shampoo for fungal infection can help, or a very mild steroid cream. Both of these would have to be prescribed by your health professional.

This guide

This article is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by a practicing medical professional - if you have any concerns, contact your physician immediately.

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