Cradle Cap

Cradle Cap is very common in babies.  It is also a temporary condition and harmless to your baby, it does not cause any itching or discomfort to your baby.  Cradle cap begins on the scalp as a red, scaly rash.  These scales build up to make a thick, yellowish, scaly layer that can sometimes look like scabs which are stuck to the skin.  These scaly scabs will eventually lift and fall off the skin.  Sometimes some hair will come off too as it is attached to the flakes.

Cradle cap often appears within the first two months, in some cases it may only last for a few months although many children continue to have it until the age of 2 and some children may still have it after this age.

Cradle Cap also known as seborrhoeic dermatitis can sometimes spread.  It can sometimes occur in areas with a lot of seabaceous or oil glands such as the eyebrows, eyelids, behind the ears or sometimes in the groin area.

What causes Cradle Cap?
It is not known what causes a baby to have cradle cap.  It is thought that it is due to overactive sebaceous glands which make an oily substance called sebum.  It is possible that some babies are born with some of these hormones in their body which they gained from their mother.  These extra hormones make their glands more active and therefore make more sebum.

Cradle Cap is not contagious and it is not caused by being ‘dirty’.  If a child has cradle cap, it is not because they are uncared for or because they have an infection or virus.

There is a possibility that babies who have family members who have previously had cradle cap or family members who suffer from eczema, may be more prone to having cradle cap themselves.

How to treat Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap will clear up in its own time.  However, there are some ways that you can help remove any loose scales and help prevent a deeper build-up of flakes:

• Continue to regularly wash your child’s hair with their normal baby shampoo.  Gently loosen the flakes with a soft brush.
• You could use a special Cradle Cap shampoo that can be purchased from your local pharmacist.  However, it is important to read all patient information supplied with the product and follow all instructions.  It is best to avoid any nut oil shampoos on young children.
• You could massage mild baby oil or olive oil into your child’s scalp.  Leave it on their hair for a while or overnight.  Then brush of the loose flakes with a soft brush.  Remember to wash the hair with a baby shampoo to remove the excess oil.
• It is important to never pick at the flakes or scales.  Pulling them of before they are ready may cause your child to have an infection and it may also mean that they will grow back.

Should I worry?
If your baby’s cradle cap begins to look red or swollen, it may be infected.  Take your child to see your doctor.  You may be prescribed and antifungal cream or shampoo or possibly a course of antibiotics.
If you are concerned and want to ask questions or need help, contact your Health Visitor or visit a local Baby Clinic where you can get advice.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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