Cradle cap looks like an extremely bad case of dandruff. It appears as patches of yellowish, greasy, scaly rash on the scalps of infants. It usually appears in the infants less than 3 months of age and is very common. It is normally safe and not often causes any discomfort to the child. The other names for cradle cap are honeycomb disease, crusta lacteal, pityriasis capitis, milk crust, and infantile seborrheic dermatitis.
Cradle cap is non– contagious and in no way, reflects or indicates poor hygienic conditions. In most of the cases, it goes away on its own. However, in severe cases, the doctors may recommend some medicated lotion or shampoo. Although it looks irritating and painful to the skin, the baby is not generally bothered by it. Washing the baby’s scalp with a mild shampoo daily can help in loosening and removing the scales caused by cradle cap.
Signs and Symptoms:
Cradle cap looks different on each baby but the affected area usually has one or more of these symptoms – thick crusts or plaques (especially on the scalp), skin flakes, oily or greasy patches of skin, covered with scales that are yellow or white in colour. In rare cases, the baby with cradle cap has skin that is itchy and a little red. Some babies might suffer hair loss but it usually grows back when the cradle cap is gone.
The exact cause of the cradle cap is unknown, but the researchers think that it is due to the overproduction of skin oil, which is called sebum, in the hair follicles and oil glands. Another factor in the development of cradle cap is the growth of a yeast called Malassezia in the sebum along with bacteria. Seborrhea mostly happens in babies and teenagers, and in both of these times, the hormone levels in the body are high, so, it might also have a role to play. Other factors like extreme weather conditions, weak immune system, oily skin and other skin problems make a child more prone to having cradle cap.
Diagnosis and Complications:
Cradle cap can be easily diagnosed at home simply by looking at it. However, you may want to seek medical help if:
· This is the first time you are treating cradle cap
· The child is getting seborrhea in places where she or he has no hair
· Home treatments have been unsuccessful
· The rash keeps getting worse and spreads over larger parts of the body
· The rash becomes itchy and causes hair loss
· The affected skin shows signs of infection
· The child has a weak immunity system
· The child is having trouble gaining weight
Gently massaging the baby’s scalp with your fingers and a washcloth and washing it with a mild shampoo can help in loosening and removing the scales from the baby’s scalp. After the scales have been removed, seborrhea can be controlled by shampooing twice a week. Brushing the child’s hair with clean, soft brush before the shampoo is rinsed off also helps in loosening the scales. Ask your doctor for medicated shampoo or lotions, if the regular shampoo does not help. If seborrhea appears on the other parts of the body, you can use steroid creams like hydrocortisone after consulting with the baby’s doctor.