Does your baby have a flaky scalp? Is it dandruff? Here are some things you need to know about cradle cap.
What can you read in this article?
- What causes cradle cap?
- How to prevent cradle cap
Smelling a newborn on the head gives us so much joy. But sometimes, because you’ve been staring at your baby for so long, you can’t help but notice baby’s flaky scalp. So you wonder, is it possible to have dandruff at an early age?
Sebborheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap, is the thick layer of sebum that you can see on your newborn’s head. You might not want to hear this, but it’s kind of like dandruff that you see on a grownup’s head.
Just like milia that you may have noticed on your infant’s face, cradle cap is a condition that is common in newborns and is normal up to 3 months.
You will notice these whitish or yellowish scaly patches on your baby’s head in the first couple of weeks. Don’t be so surprised if you can also see these dandruff-like patches on her eyebrows, eyelashes, ears, at the corners of her mouth, armpits, or diaper area. Seborrheic dermatitis can take place in areas where there are active oil-producing sebaceous glands.
It can also be mistaken as eczema, which is a different condition, but it’s possible for your baby to have them both at the same time. Cradle cap is itchier than eczema, but the former is not chronic compared to the latter.
When it comes to caring for our newborns, we always have so many questions. So it’s natural that we want to know more about our baby’s flaky scalp. Does it hurt? What causes cradle cap? Will this affect the growth of baby’s hair?
Here are some relevant information that will help you wrap your head around this temporary situation on your baby’s head.
What you need to know about cradle cap in newborns
1. What causes cradle cap?
According to the book The Baby Care Book: A Complete Guide from Birth to 12 Months Old by Dr. Jeremy Friedman, MD, and Dr. Norman Saunders, MD, cradle cap might be caused by overproduction of the skin’s natural oil or sebum in the hair follicles.
Another possible culprit for baby’s flaky scalp is the mother’s hormones. There are some hormones that pass by the placenta before the baby is born, which causes the oil glands to be overactive and release more oil than usual.
Other factors like change of weather, having oily skin, immune system problems, and even stress can also contribute to seborrheic dermatitis. A child who has eczema is also more prone to having cradle cap.
2. Do I need to do something about it?
For most cases, cradle cap does not require any medical attention or treatment. It usually goes away on its own within a couple of weeks or a month.
But it would help if you wash your newborn’s scalp using a mild soap or baby shampoo with lukewarm water to loosen up the patches on baby’s head.
After giving baby a bath, you may apply baby oil or mineral oil on his scalp and leave it there for a few minutes, then comb it out using a soft brush (one that’s specifically made for babies). DON’T use dandruff shampoos, because they contain salicylic acid that is not safe for babies.
Image from Shutterstock
You also have to refrain from scratching it. Resist the urge to peel it off as doing so will just make things worse. Your child’s scalp might get a scratch and bleed. Remember, our fingernails have germs that we don’t see and these can transfer to baby’s skin and cause an infection.
While it may look disturbing, stop yourself when you feel like picking on it as it may do more harm than good. Remember, your baby’s fontanelle or bunbunan is very fragile.
3. Is cradle cap contagious?
No, cradle cap isn’t contagious and it is not caused by poor hygiene. However, keeping your newborn’s head clean and as oil free as possible can help improve its condition.
4. Does cradle cap hurt?
For us adults, having itchy dandruff can cause distress. So we think it’s the same case with our baby’s cradle cap. But don’t worry. Because while it may look disturbing, it doesn’t actually cause any discomfort to your newborn. So leave it.
5. However, if the appearance worsens, it’s best to call a doctor.
If you notice that there’s blood on your baby’s scalp or for some reason your baby seems irritated by it (you will know because he will be reaching to his head), it’s still best to consult his pediatrician about it. The same goes when you notice that the flakes or scaly patches have spread to baby’s face and other parts of the body.
In cases where the cradle cap is severe, the doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo or lotion to treat it, along with hydrocortisone cream to calm the redness and inflammation. However, always consult your doctor before applying anything on your child’s scalp.
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6. Cradle cap is not caused by an infection or allergy
It is not a symptom of a virus, infection or an allergy. However, if you pick on it, as mentioned earlier, an infection may develop on your newborn’s scalp. Another factor that may worsen your baby’s flaky scalp is eczema, but if left alone, it will not cause any wounds or scars.
7. Complications of cradle cap
Don’t hesitate to consult your child’s pediatrician if you notice the following symptoms:
- redness of the scalp
- the flakes are spreading or getting worse, despite frequent washing
- your baby experiences diaper rash
- your baby might get a fungal ear infection or other signs that he has oral thrush
If there is a fungal infection, it may develop and facilitate the growth of bacteria. In worse cases, there might be a crack or bleeding on your baby’s scalp.
While cradle cap does not cause an infection, picking on it with dirty nails might. So if your baby gets a fever or diarrhea, it’s best to consult his pediatrician to pinpoint the cause of the infection and get proper treatment.
Also consult your baby’s doctor if the cradle cap has spread, gotten worse or if it lasts for over 12 months.
8. Does cradle cap cause hair fall?
Usually, cradle cap does not affect your baby’s hair, but picking on it might damage the hair follicles and cause temporary hair loss in children.
9. Does cradle cap affect the growth of baby’s hair?
Again, in rare cases, it may lead to temporary hair fall or hair loss. But it will grow back normally. Cradle cap does not cause permanent hair loss.
10. Is it normal for cradle cap to have a foul smell?
Cradle cap doesn’t usually smell bad, but in some cases, the build up of oil or sebum may cause a strong odor. However, if you smell something rotten like stale bread, it may be a sign of yeast infection and warrants a checkup with your baby’s pediatrician.
So to make sure that your baby’s cradle cap will not worsen or lead to any complications, make it a point to keep your baby’s scalp clean.
Home remedies and treatment for cradle cap
Natutulog na sanggol | cradle cap | Larawan mula sa Unsplash
While the sight of baby’s cradle cap may bother you, keep in mind that it’s temporary and usually goes away on its own. However, there are some products and home remedies you can use to improve the appearance and condition of your baby’s flaky scalp.
The first option to treat flaky scalp on baby is washing his hair regularly with a mild baby shampoo. Make sure you choose a product that won’t further irritate your newborn’s scalp.
After washing baby’s head, you can use a soft brush to massage his scalp and the flakes will fall off on their own. You may also use a soft washcloth to gently massage baby’s head.
If the regular baby shampoo isn’t working for your child’s cradle cap, ask his doctor about cradle cap shampoo with stronger ingredients – beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and salicylic acid to exfoliate the scalp, and Climbazole, an antifungal agent.
You may also try olive oil to provide a moisture barrier in your baby’s flaky scalp. Aside from softening the patches and oil buildup, it can help sooth your child’s skin and prevent inflammation.
Just put a few drops of olive oil onto baby’s head and gently massage using your hands or a soft brush. Then wash it off with shampoo and brush again after. Just avoid letting the olive oil stay in your child’s scalp for more than 5 minutes, as it may add to the oil buildup.
It has the same use as olive oil – but with a better smell! There’s also enough evidence saying that coconut oil works great to provide a skin barrier compared to other natural oils.
Some believe that putting a few drops of your breast milk on your baby’s scalp can help treat cradle cap, but there isn’t enough evidence to support this. If you want to give it a try, make sure your hands and finger nails are clean to prevent infection.
As mentioned earlier, in severe cases, your child’s doctor might prescribe a hydrocortisone cream to treat cradle cap.
How to prevent cradle cap?
As disturbing as it looks, cradle cap is common in newborns and isn’t a cause for concern as it usually clears on its own. Because of this, there is no one exact way to prevent baby’s flaky scalp. However, if your baby’s cradle cap have already cleared and came back, consult your doctor to pinpoint the cause.
The best way to prevent cradle cap from recurring is to keep your baby’s scalp as clean as possible. Be as gentle to your baby’s head as much as possible, and avoid using harmful products on it. Wash baby’s hair frequently and dry it properly to prevent oil buildup. Also, refrain from getting baby’s scalp too sweaty as it may contribute to sebum buildup.
When you’re just at home, refrain from putting on a hat on baby’s head to prevent sweat and foul odor.
If you’re going to give baby a bath, try to limit it to 10 minutes only to prevent the skin from drying which can make it itchy. You can use a soft brush on baby’s head. And for the nth time, resist the urge to scratch or pick on it.
Malusog na buhok ng sanggol | Larawan mula sa Pexels
There are things about our newborn that we want to change – like the milia or baby acne on his face, the spitups, and also cradle cap. But before you start worrying over these things, remember that these don’t usually cause any discomfort to your newborn and they usually go away on their own.
So as long as your baby isn’t exhibiting any symptoms of distress or infection over his flaky scalp, just relax and leave it. However, if you think it’s having a negative effect on your newborn, don’t hesitate to consult your child’s pediatrician about it.
If you want to read the Filipino version of this article, click here.
WebMD, Seattle Children’s Org, Medical News Today,
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