Cradle cap is a skin condition among babies which usually develops when they are under 3 months of age. This skin condition causes crusty, oily, scaly yellow patches or in some cases red patches that develop on the newborn’s scalp. It is unclear what causes cradle cap but one thing is for sure, it is in no way contagious. Also known as Seborrheic Dermatitis, cradle cap can occur anywhere on the scalp and extend to the face, ears, around the diaper region and in various parts of the skin. It might look like it can itch or irritate the young infant skin, but cradle cap hardly seems to bother the baby.
Although it is still unclear what exactly is the cause of cradle cap, but most likely it is a result of sebum accumulation in the glands. Alternatively, another factor may be a yeast (fungus) called Malassezia, a kind of yeast present on the skin. It is not a result of any bacteria or poor hygiene. However, research has shown that babies who develop cradle cap have family members suffering from eczema or asthma.
A baby will develop cradle cap at birth or shortly after it. It may appear on the scalp initially but can spread around the ears, on the face, in the underarms and in places where the skin folds. Once it develops, it is advisable not to pick or scratch the area as it may result in skin infections. Babies with cradle cap may have:
- Yellow greasy and crusty patches on the scalp
- Flaky dandruff-like particles on the surface of the scalp
- A portion of the scalp that appears to be scaly
- The area where cradle cap is developed is also likely to become red
It is not a serious condition but parents should seek medical assistance in case the condition seems to worsen. If the affected area starts to go red and look irritated, you should seek medical treatment or if the condition starts to spread to the face or body with signs of the infant developing thrush, it should be reported to the doctor for proper medical care.
Mild condition of cradle cap may disappear without any intervention. If the skin does not look irritated you may gently use baby shampoo to wash your baby’s head followed by gentle brushing or cradle cap comb to loosen the scaly skin. If there is inflammation, the doctors may prescribe antibiotics or steroids to treat it.