Cradle Cap

Cradle Cap is the term given to seborrheic dermatitis affecting the scalp of infants. Cradle cap is a harmless condition that is characterised by scaly, greasy patches that form on the baby’s scalp usually within a few months after birth.

Sebhorrheic dermatitis can also appear on other areas of a baby’s body including the face and nappy area.

Cradle cap is seborrheic dermatitis affecting the scalp of infants

It is caused by an overactive sebaceous gland in the skin of newborn babies

Symptoms of all forms of sebhorrheic dermatitis in babies usually disappear between 6 months and 1 year of age

Treatment may involve softening the scale to help remove it, topical medication and medicated shampoo

What causes Cradle Cap?

The cause of cradle cap is not fully known, but it is thought to be related to an overactive sebaceous gland in the skin of newborn babies. The glands release a greasy substance which makes old skin cells stick to the scalp instead of naturally falling off.

Cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene or infection.

Who is at risk of Cradle Cap?

All babies can be affected by cradle cap. It is a very common condition which usually appears in the first 6 weeks of life.

It can disappear within a few weeks, months or in some cases up to a year.

What are the symptoms of Cradle Cap?

Symptoms of cradle cap are likely to appear within two months of birth, and include; a yellow, or brownish greasy scale which can cover the entire scalp. Over time this scale becomes more flaky and begins to peel off.

Although cradle cap can be itchy, it is harmless and usually painless.

Seborrheic dermatitis in babies can also affect the face, around the eyelids, nose, and ears. It can also affect the nappy area and is sometimes mistaken for nappy rash.

In rare cases seborrheic dermatitis can affect the whole body covering it with red, and scaly patches.

Symptoms of all forms of sebhorrheic dermatitis in babies usually disappear between 6 months and 1 year of age.

Images of Cradle Cap

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How does a dermatologist diagnose Cradle Cap?

Since cradle cap is a common and harmless condition which usually disappears naturally, it may not be necessary to receive a formal diagnosis, or treatment.

However if there is concern that the condition could have another cause or is causing discomfort, then an examination by a paediatric dermatologist may be necessary to rule out other possibilities.

How does a dermatologist treat Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap affecting the scalp usually disappears naturally without any treatment. If, however, it remains and is causing concern, a paediatric dermatologist may recommend shampooing the baby’s scalp daily with baby shampoo or baby oil to soften the scale. Once the scale is softened it is recommended that the scale is gently brushed off the scalp.

Topical medication may also be advised for cradle cap of the scalp, and for sebhorrheic dermatitis affecting other areas skin. Certain types of medicated shampoos contain ketoconazole and hydrocortisone creams for reducing inflammation and tenderness.

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