Is your scalp covered in thick skin that is constantly itching and flaking? It may not necessarily be dandruff but something else. You may be suffering from seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap which is a scalp disorder that affects both babies and adults. Let us understand what is cradle cap and what are its symptoms?
What Is Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap is similar to dandruff in terms of symptoms. It is a form of scalp infection that occurs in new born babies, and can sometimes affect adults as well. The scientific name is infantile seborrheic dermatitis; other names include honeycomb disease, milk crust and crusta lacteal.
It is not a contagious disease nor is it a reflection of any hygienic mistakes from your end. Although there is no known cause for this problem, it can be easily managed and cured. It affects 10% of newborn babies.
Symptoms Of Cradle Cap
Cradle cap is not a dangerous infliction, but it can be troublesome in terms of poor hair growth and the appearance of your baby’s skin. Signs of cradle cap in babies will appear at birth with the following symptoms –
1. Similar to dandruff-like flakes falling from your child’s scalp
2. The patches are yellow and greasy looking
3. Can also look like scales
4. The affected area looks red and sore
The cradle cap doesn’t necessarily remain in one area; it can spread behind the ears, small patches may appear on the nose, eyelids and the back of knees too. It can also affect the groin region. However, if the patches appear on other parts of the body besides the scalp, it is known as seborrheic eczema.
Also Read: What Causes Itchy Scalp And Hair Loss?
What Are The Causes Of Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap does not have a definitive cause, and it is not necessarily caused by any bacterial infection, poor hygiene or an allergy.
Overactive sebaceous glands or fungal infection (or even both) can cause the skin to overproduce sebum, which is the root source of cradle cap. When there is too much sebum, the dry skin flakes stick to the scalp instead of falling off.
Generally speaking, the overactive glands shouldn’t happen to a baby, but it occurs if the mother’s hormones stay in the baby’s body for several months’ post-birth. As for the fungal infection, if the mother takes antibiotics before going into the labour or if the baby is given a dose of antibiotics immediately after birth, then it can lead to a fungal infection. Antibiotics help in destroying harmful bacteria, but they also end up exhausting good bacteria, causing a fungal infection to crop up. Another cause may be a close family member suffering from asthma and eczema.
When To Seek Medical Advice?
Cradle cap is a harmless, non-contagious, self-curing disorder and it will most likely disappear by your baby’s first birthday. Cradle cap is simply a natural reaction that indicates your baby has not adjusted to his/her environment. Once the baby adapts to the surrounding, the cradle cap will automatically heal and disappear.
However, if the cradle cap continues to linger for more than a year and starts to show the following symptoms, then you must visit an expert dermatologist –
1. If the scales begin to ooze a thick pus-like fluid
2. The patches become red and look sore
3. Cradle cap spreads to other parts of the body, i.e. face, back of the ear, etc.
4. If the baby gets diarrhoea
5. Nappy rash is reoccurring
6. Development of a fungal ear infection
7. Appearance of thrush
Treatment For Cradle Cap
Cradle cap does not require any special medical attention, but if you are worried about it, then here are some excellent remedies for treating cradle cap. Once the cradle cap has healed, the baby will lose a chunk of his/her hair. Hair loss will occur where the cradle cap patch exits.
Treatment For Cradle Cap In Infants –
1. Wash your baby’s scalp with a gentle baby shampoo. Make sure it is recommended by a dermatologist or paediatrician. Remember not to overdo the washing and stick to once a few days. Over washing will cause the body to create more sebum and that can aggravate the existing condition. Do not use any anti-dandruff products as they are not safe for your baby’s delicate scalp nor does it help in getting rid of cradle cap
2. Brushing your baby’s wet scalp can loosen the scales. The brush must be made of soft bristles and must be designed for babies. It is important to be gentle while brushing the scalp or else the scalp can be inflamed and sore
3. Your dermatologist may even recommend 2% anti-fungal ketoconazole medication if the cradle cap is spreading more than normal. Another strong medicine such as Hydrocortisone cream can help reduce inflammation and redness. Be sure to use these medicines under the supervision of an expert. Also such products must not enter the baby’s eyes, nose or mouth as that can cause irritation and pain.
Prevention Of Cradle Cap
When it comes to any disease, prevention is the best solution. Since there is no cause, it can be difficult to prevent. But cradle cap is nothing to worry about and it clears on its own. If you are still concerned, then here are some tips on cradle cap care that can be easily incorporated in your daily grooming –
1. Gently brush away the flakes and/or scales with a damp cloth. Remember not to use your nails or any sharp object.
2. Wash the scalp with a mild, medicated shampoo once a day. You can use a soft bristled brush on a damp scalp to remove the flakes
3. If you want to prevent cradle cap from re-occurring, then it is necessary to keep up with the gentle exfoliating and brushing habits
4. You can use a lubricator to moisturize and soften the scales. Ask your dermatologist for suitable products before buying one on your own.
Cradle cap is not life threatening but it doesn’t really enhance your beauty either. Talk to your skin and hair expert today.