Have you seen new-borns with an oily scalp with patches of crusty yellow and white scaly skin which are not easily removable? Yes, we are talking of cradle cap which is a common new-born condition which is not painful or itchy but looks a little unpleasant. Cradle cap is the common term for infantile seborrheic dermatitis. It’s at times confused with another skin condition called infantile eczema. A major difference between these two conditions is that eczema usually causes significant itching while cradle cap does not.
We don’t know what causes cradle cap. It is not contagious and definitely not caused by poor hygiene. An obvious contributing factor is the hormones that pass from the mother to the baby causing excess sebum production in the oil glands and hair follicles. Another cause could be a fungus or yeast called malassezia that grows in the sebum along with bacteria.
The most common signs and symptoms of cradle cap are patchy scaling or thick yellow crusts on the scalp, oily or dry skin covered with flaky white to yellow scales and skin flakes on the ears, eyelids, nose and groin, and a little mild redness,
Cradle cap as a condition does not require any medical treatment and usually clears up on its own in a few weeks to months with very careful and diligent home-care measures that include washing the baby’s scalp daily and very carefully with a mild shampoo and brushing the scalp lightly with a clean soft brush to loosen the scale. Scratching is a big no-no in cradle cap.
See the doctor if the problem persists despite frequent shampooing and the cradle cap gets severe and does not heal, and spreads to the baby’s face and other parts of the body. Antifungal treatment with ketoconazole medication in the form of an adult dandruff shampoo with precaution that it does not get into the baby’s eyes should treat the problem. Hydrocortisone cream is sometimes helpful to reduce redness and inflammation.
But again, self-medication with over-the-counter creams and lotions is not advisable as it may cause serious skin problems for the baby.