If you are a parent, you likely have seen cradle cap at one time or another. Cradle cap is a very-common skin condition that impacts nearly 70% of babies by three-months old. Cradle cap or ‘seborrheic dermatitis’ resembles a type of baby dandruff, and though it is most common on the scalp, it can also affect the skin around the torso, face, and diapering area. While it isn’t believed by some that your baby is in pain from this condition, it is still bothersome and can worry many new parents. Rest assured, there are some things that parents can do to alleviate the severity and even frequency of this condition, though it is likely more common than you realize.
What Causes Cradle Cap?
So, what is the cause of cradle cap? It has been reported that dermatitis is a result of hormones passed on from the mother during pregnancy and birth, and that dermatitis will usually resolve on its own by the time the child is a year old, though it is estimated that around 7% of kids age 1-2 continue to experience this condition. Dermatitis is not contagious, so it is not caused by contact with another baby that has it, nor is it a result of poor hygiene or neglect. This condition goes by other names including honeycomb disease, milk crust, and infantile seborrheic dermatitis.
Symptoms of dermatitis include flaking, scaling, and peeling skin on the afflicted areas. These scales can be loosened and exfoliated with a clean, soft-bristled brush but don’t ever pick or peel the area with your fingers. This can cause bleeding, pain, and serious infection. While dermatitis doesn’t itch or hurt, an infected site can cause significant discomfort and medical complication. It is not uncommon for the site to be red, dry, though if it appears swollen, contact your child’s doctor.
You can treat and alleviate it by seeing your doctor or provider for a prescription shampoo or topical products to reduce the spots afflicted. This is also the right place to go if you have questions or other concerns regarding dermatitis and your child.
Cradle cap is not preventable necessarily, but you can reduce the severity of the condition with regular hair washings, and a gentle scalp massage with a delicate brush. This should serve to loosen the flakes and scales, revealing the healthy skin underneath. Be careful not to shampoo the child’s hair more than once a day however, as this can dry out the scalp and make the situation worse.
After shampooing and sloughing the flaky skin in the tub or shower, apply baby oil or lotion to these affected areas of the body. This should serve as a barrier to new scales and keep the skin soft and smooth. Make sure that you always use baby-approved products on the gentle skin of your child; adult products, lotions, and oils can be harsh and irritating to your baby’s skin. If these don’t seem to help with the severity, speak with your doctor about prescription-strength cream or lotion to help.
Still worried? Call your child’s doctor or pediatrician to learn more.
What Can I Do?
You can help your child by assessing the changes in their skin daily, to determine if it is clean and infection-free. Also, use a gentle shampoo and soft brush, such as Bean-B-Clean, to massage and exfoliate the scalp. If the issue afflicts other regions of the body, like the diapering area, it may be easier to soak in a tub while sloughing the skin very gingerly. Please do not substitute other brushes or tools on your baby’s delicate skin; also, make sure that you are using a clean, uncontaminated brush before touching your baby with it. Bacteria from a used or re-purposed brush could cause infection and serious medical issues.
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