Cradle cap: Treatment, causes, and prevention

Cradle cap is a greasy, yellowish, scaly rash that appears in patches on the scalps of young infants.

The condition is very common, and generally appears within the first 3 months of life. It is normally safe, and it rarely causes the infant any discomfort.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is also known as crusta lacteal, honeycomb disease, milk crust, pityriasis capitis, and infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis.

It is not contagious, and in no way does it reflect how well the child is being cared for. It is not clear exactly what causes cradle cap.

Cradle cap is similar to dandruff in some ways. When cradle cap seems to appear on older infants or children, it is usually dandruff.

Cradle cap is believed to affect 10 percent of infants up to the ages of 1 month, and the prevalence peaks at 70 percent by 3 months of age. In infants aged 1 to 2 years, the prevalence is only 7 percent.

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Put oils or lotions on before shampoo, to prevent scaling.

Meanwhile, a caregiver or parent should gently wash the infant’s head every day with a mild baby shampoo, and delicately brush the scalp with a soft brush or a special cradle cap comb, to loosen the scales.

After the scales disappear, the gentle washing process should be repeated every few days to prevent them from returning.

If this does not help, a parent or caregiver should consult a doctor or pediatrician.

They may advise using a stronger shampoo, for example, an adult dandruff shampoo, or applying an oil or lotion to the affected area to soften the scaly patches.

Any oil or lotion should be applied before shampoo as leaving the oil on can cause more scales to form.

If there is inflammation or infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics, a mild steroid-based cream or an antifungal shampoo or soap.

Cradle cap is rarely serious, but parents can consult a physician if they are unsure how severe it is.

Causes of cradle cap

It is not clear what causes cradle cap, but it is not caused by allergy, bacterial infection, or bad hygiene.

It may stem from overactive sebaceous glands, a fungal infection, or both. The sebaceous glands are found in the skin and produce an oil-like substance, known as sebum.

Overactive sebaceous glands may produce too much sebum, and this could prevent the old skin cells from drying and falling off the scalp. Instead, they stick to the scalp.

The reason why the glands are overactive may be because the mother’s hormones stay in the baby’s body for a number of months after birth.

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