Cradle cap refers to a condition in babies that causes their scalp to develop thick yellow or white scales. In adults and older kids, the condition is known as dandruff.
How to Spot Cradle Cap
Spotting the condition can be difficult because its presentation may be different on every baby. It can be spread far apart or grouped together. You can, however, look for signs such as:
- Presence of thick crusts on the scalp (and sometimes on the eyebrows, ears, groin, neck, or armpits)
- Greasy patches enclosed with yellow or white scales
- Skin flakes (resembling dandruff in adults)
There are a few cases, whereby a baby with cradle cap may have a reddish or itchy skin. Some babies may experience hair loss, although this grows back after the condition stops.
Causes of Cradle Cap
Research does not show the specific cause of cradle cap. However, speculations on its causation include:
- Overproduction of sebum (skin oil) In the hair follicles and oil glands
- Growth of a type of fungus (malassezia) on sebum alongside bacteria
- Existence of high hormone levels during the baby stage
- Problems in a baby’s immune system
- Existence of other skin disorders
Does It Need Treatment?
Most cases of cradle cap do not require treatment, so if you want to loosen and remove the scales from your baby’s scalp, you can try the following:
- Gently massage your baby’s scalp with a washcloth or your fingers
- Use a mild baby shampoo to wash his hair once a day
- Use a clean soft brush to brush your baby’s hair prior to rinsing
- Shampoo his hair twice a week after the scales have disappeared
It is important to note that some regular shampoos may be ineffective in removing the dry scales. If this happens, ask your pediatrician about medicated shampoos, as they may prove to be more effective. For other parts of the body, ask your practitioner about suitable steroid creams.
When to See Your Practitioner
It is easy to spot the condition. However, sometimes cradle cap may present in an unusual manner that may require a doctor’s visit. These are such as
- You see its signs in areas without hair
- Home treatments are ineffective
- The affected skin is reddish and firm, and drains fluid
- Your baby has a weakened immune system and develops cradle cap
- Your baby has cradle cap and has difficulty in gaining weight
Please note that development differs from one child to another
Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.
Last reviewed January 2019