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If you are a parent to a newly born, you might have seen or might soon see certain yellowish unsightly scaly patches appear on your baby's cute head. In most cases, this may be nothing to worry about. This condition, popularly known as cradle cap and medically called infantile seborrheic dermatitis is known to occur in most babies. These scaly patches usually occur when the baby is two weeks to six months old. In certain rare cases, babies could be born with the cradle cap. Let us explore in detail this condition in babies.
- What Is Cradle Cap? (Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis)
- What Causes Cradle Cap?
- Is It Normal? How To Treat It At Home?
- When To See A Doctor?
- Treatment Of Cradle Cap
What Is Cradle Cap? (Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis)
The medical name of cradle cap, Seborrheic Dermatitis is derived from:
1. Seborrhea- Which happens due to the overactive sebaceous glands which secrete sebum (required to lubricate hair and skin) in excess, leading to a greasy coating and flaky crust on the skin.
2. Dermatitis- The skin goes red and swollen, usually due to an allergy or any external stimulant.
Cradle cap, in simple words, is one of the commonly occurring baby rashes when the skin becomes red or discoloured and develops greasy and scaly patches. It could typically affect around 65-70 per cent of infants when they are two weeks or up to six months old. It may appear on the baby's scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, forehead, behind the ears, armpits and sometimes on the upper torso. Additionally, there may be a peculiar cradle cap smell too. Also, it may look like adult dandruff, but without any itchiness or irritation.
What Causes Cradle Cap?
The answer to this question is not exactly known. However, various theories suggest a few possible reasons:
• Mother's hormones- The mother's hormones may be responsible for the over production of oil as a result of overactive sebaceous glands of the baby.
• Lack of proper nutrition- If the mother or baby doesn't get proper nutrition, i.e., a diet especially rich in vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, biotin or manganese, it could result in cradle cap.
• Yeast infection- Malassezia, a certain kind of yeast, if developed on the baby's skin, could make it inflamed and red, leading to excess sebum build-up and dead skin cells that cause cradle cap.
• Fungal infection- The occurrence of fungal infections, such as the athlete's foot, that is an infection between the toes, could be a possible cause of cradle cap in babies.
• Weak immunity- If your baby's immune system is weak, it may give rise to the cradle cap condition.
Is It Normal? How To Treat It At Home?
Yes, absolutely! It is both common and normal, for babies to develop cradle cap. It is harmless in most cases apart from being non-contagious and painless. Let us understand the various do's and don'ts related to the home-based care of babies with cradle cap:
• Avoid over bathing your baby: Babies could suffer from excessive secretion of sebum or natural oils by the sebaceous glands, in case they are bathed in excess. It is advisable to bathe your baby not more than once on a daily basis. It is obvious to keep the diaper area clean while changing diapers multiple times during the day; however, bathing your baby on a frequent basis could dry his/her skin. So, avoid it.
• Use the right shampoo for your baby's hair and scalp: It is imperative to use a gentle shampoo for babies, since it will help cleanse and rinse away the dryness of the cradle cap.
• Use a soft brush on your baby's scalp: Once you have rinsed off the shampoo from your baby's head, you could gently brush the scalp and head using a soft brush. It would help the softened flakes come off easily.
• Apply oil: Olive oil, almond oil and coconut oil are known as the best moisturizers for the baby's tender scalp and skin. Apply any of these oils, gently to avoid any damage. It is preferable to apply oil before you use the brush.
• Opt for nourishment: If you are a breastfeeding mother, you could add certain nutrients to your daily intake to benefit your baby indirectly. Adding manganese, zinc, selenium, vitamin B6, etc. to your diet could result in improved immunity and the health of the baby, which may result in easy cure as well as prevention of the cradle cap.
In case you are not breastfeeding, then adding a little amount of cod liver oil in the baby's milk would be a great option. Just remember to consult the doctor for advice, before you do that.
When To See A Doctor?
While these home remedies for cradle cap may be good and effective for a quick or gradual cure in most cases, at times it may be advisable to consult a doctor for some cases. For instance, your baby's cradle cap may be worsened, being more inflamed, reddened, itchy, very flaky, itchy or may be oozing a yellowish fluid.
The doctor would be able to determine the severity of the problem just by looking at it, and would prescribe over-the-counter medication or shampoo to help decrease the effect.
Treatment Of Cradle Cap
While cradle cap may be prevented or cured by various home-based methods, certain regular practices could help keep it at bay:
• Gently massaging: You could gently massage your baby's scalp or head with your fingers or using a clean washcloth, especially on the affected area, along with a shampoo at least once a day.
• Caring after the flakiness has gone: Once you see the scales vanish, you could control or prevent cradle cap by shampooing your baby's head just twice in a week.
The cradle cap condition is very common and at times repetitive. Taking necessary precautions such as maintaining proper hygiene, avoiding over bathing, usage of suitable shampoo and oil for the baby, including nutrients or supplements as per requirement in the regular diet of the nursing mother, are some of the ways to prevent this issue.