Does your child have cradle cap? If your baby’s scalp has a greasy skin covered with patchy, scaly, and thick crusts that are yellowish or brownish in color, then it’s very likely that your child indeed has the condition. Although cradle cap is not usually itchy, parents often feel troubled because it can become very prominent on the scalp and also around the ears, on the eyebrows, and even on the eyelids. Sometimes, other parts of the body become affected, too. When it is found elsewhere in the body, it is more commonly known as seborrhoeic dermatitis.
What causes cradle cap? Cradle cap is a very common condition that affects more than half of all newborns. The exact cause of cradle cap is not known, although a general consensus among researchers is that cradle cap is not caused by bacterial infection, allergies, or poor hygiene.
One possible culprit behind cradle cap is fungi, which can infect your baby when antibiotics are administered to him during the first few days of his life. A baby could become immunocompromised and end up being vulnerable to fungal infection because aside from killing harmful bacteria, antibiotics also get rid of the beneficial bacteria which are essential for the prevention of fungal growth.
Another hypothesis is that cradle cap may also be caused by overactive sebaceous glands. During pregnancy, a mother passes on hormones to her newborn baby which could over-stimulate the baby’s sebaceous glands, making them release a greasy substance that prevents old skin cells from detaching from the skin as they normally would. The old skin cells build up over time as a result.
Is it harmful? Cradle cap usually does not need medical treatment and is not contagious so there is no need to worry if there are other kids at home. In most children, the condition usually lasts for several months and should heal by itself after a few months to a year. However, in some rare cases, cradle cap can sometimes persists through childhood or recur during the teenage or adult years.
What you can do Washing your baby’s head with mild shampoo and water is often enough to help loosen the greasy scales. To be certain, however, you should consult with your pediatrician so that your baby’s condition can be diagnosed properly through a physical examination. If simple washing doesn’t work, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription shampoo and creams, especially if it appears that the condition is being caused by fungal infection.