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Cradle Cap

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Cradle cap is a common inflammatory skin condition that affects infants. This rash appears on the scalp of neonates.

Cradle Cap – Introduction

Cradle cap is also called as neonatal or infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis. Some call it honeycomb disease, milk crust or crusta lacteal. It is very common in neonates and is not a serious skin disease. It usually appears in the first 3 months and resolves on its own in a few months.

Symptoms of Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is very easy to spot. It appears on the scalp and can be termed as a severe dandruff problem. It begins as a red rash on the scalp. Gradually it turns yellow, scaly and greasy. The scalp becomes dry, scaly and develops crusty patches. The scaly, thick, yellow plaques form scabs. These scabs look as if they are stuck to the skin. It spreads all over the scalp in some cases and looks very ugly.

The rash can spread to other areas of the body as well. This includes the eyelids, eyebrows, behind ears, nose, groin. In this case, the condition is called as seborrheic dermatitis.

Cradle cap does not cause itching.

Causes of Cradle Cap

The exact cause of cradle cap is not clearly known. It is thought to be the effect of overproduction of sebum in the hair follicles and oil glands. In some cases, a fungus called as Malassezia starts growing in the excessive sebum produced. This fungus, along with certain opportunistic bacteria increases the severity of cradle cap.

It has also been found, it can be caused due to changes in weather, application of certain lotions that contain alcohol, infrequent cleaning of skin and oily skin.

When to See a Doctor

When the scaly, greasy patches start turning thicker and red, it indicates one should not waste time to visit the doctor. Also, when the rash starts appearing in different places on the body, especially in areas where the baby does not have hair, visit to the doctor becomes necessary.

When the cradle cap causes skin bleeding, impetigo or becomes worsens causes loss of hair, it becomes mandatory to seek medical help.

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Treatment of Cradle Cap

Cradle cap generally resolves on its own. Treatment only becomes necessary when the rash is persistent and causes bleeding or appears in other parts of the body.

Treatment in case of mild case of cradle cap involves washing with a gentle shampoo. Use your fingers to massage the baby’s scalp and loosen the scales on the scalp. Brush the scalp with a soft brush and then rinse the scalp. If the scalps do not loosen, apply a little bit of mineral oil. Wait for a few minutes before you start shampooing and brushing the scalp.

If the condition persists, visit a doctor. The doctor may advise antifungal medicated shampoo that contains ketoconazole or selenium sulfide. Infants may be advised application of 1% clotrimazole or 2% miconazole.

Remember, do not use any medicated shampoo, cream or lotion for children available over the counter without consulting a doctor.

Cradle cap may take a few months to disappear. It doesn't cause any type of itching or irritation to the baby. Take a few precautions and home care to get rid of the condition as soon as possible.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 25, 2015