Friday, May 4, 2012

What Is the Best Way to Handle Cradle Cap?

Angela M: What is the best way to handle cradle cap?

Thanks for the question, Angela. “Cradle Cap” is a common skin condition in small babies—fortunately it’s harmless and, with the right care, can most often be treated easily.

What is cradle cap?
Cradle cap is a whitish-yellow, scaly and greasy skin rash that appears in patches on a baby’s scalp. It’s actually similar to dandruff, but in babies! It is totally unrelated to infection or hygiene and may be secondary to the maternal hormones that a baby adjusts to upon birth.

Where does cradle cap happen?
By definition, “cradle” cap is limited to the skin of the head. However, when the rash extends to the face and other body parts—even the diaper area—docs call it “seborrheic dermatitis”. This name comes from the fact that the condition occurs in the location where the sebaceous glands are prominent. Sebacious glands produce the oily substances that keep skin moist and lubricated.

What can I do to prevent it?
Actually, cradle cap and seborrheic dermatitis are unrelated to anything you as a parent do. It can’t be “prevented” but it can be treated and, therefore, the spread can be limited in most instances.

How do I treat cradle cap?
When it’s just on the scalp (has not spread elsewhere), you can do the following:
  1. Use a soft brush to remove the scales gently. Do this several times a day.
  2. You can still use baby safe shampoo, in fact you can shampoo more frequently to help loose up the scales.
  3. Some suggest baby oil or petroleum jelly; One Sassy Doctor’s experience has been that this is not helpful and may actually increase the scaling.
If this doesn’t help, talk to your pediatrician. He or she may recommend using special shampoos (commonly used for dandruff) that contain special chemicals to loosen the scales faster, but since they also can be irritating, use them only after consulting your pediatrician. Your doctor may also suggest a mild steroid cream.

When do I call my doctor?
If your baby’s cradle cap spreads beyond the head, changes in appearance to redness or oozing, or your baby seems uncomfortable or has a fever, call your pediatrician.

Good luck, Angela!

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