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Infantile Cradle Cap - Symptoms and Treatments

What is cradle cap?What is the cause?

No one really knows why some otherwise healthy infants develop cradle cap while others do not. Some authorities propose the mother, just prior to giving birth, had a hormone "rush" across the placenta and this energizes the scalp of the newborn and over stimulates the baby's oil-producing (seborrheic) glands while not being able to slough off the old cells. This messy crust builds up and it's called cradle cap. What we do know is that it's not caused by poor hygiene or allergies. It's not contagious, and it probably doesn't bother your baby at all, although if it gets severe it might itch.

When this rash occurs on the scalp alone, it's known as cradle cap. Although it may start as scaling and redness of the scalp, it can extend to the face, neck and arm pits too, and when it does, pediatricians call it seborrheic dermatitis (because it occurs where there are the greatest numbers of oil-producing sebaceous glands). Seborrheic dermatitis is a noninfectious skin condition and is a form of eczema that's very common in infants, usually beginning in the first weeks of life and slowly disappearing over a period of weeks or months. Unlike atopic or contact eczema, it's rarely uncomfortable or itchy.

How is it diagnosed?

Cradle cap is diagnosed by physical examination. If it has not improved with simple treatment, other diagnoses should be considered and other tests may be necessary.

How should it be treated?

Generally, cradle cap does not need to be treated as long as it doesn't bother you or the baby. If your child's seborrheic dermatitis is confined to his scalp (and is, therefore, just cradle cap), you can treat it yourself. Don't be afraid to shampoo the hair. In fact, you should wash it (with a mild baby shampoo) more frequently than before. This, along with soft brushing, will help remove the scales.

If frequent shampooing doesn't improve the cradle cap, or if the rash spreads to your baby's face, neck and crease areas, call your pediatrician who will probably suggest a stronger scale-dissolving shampoo and also might prescribe a cortisone cream or lotion. One percent hydrocortisone cream is a commonly used preparation.

The following treatments can also be effective although they may need to be repeated to prevent reoccurrences:

* Rub a little olive oil into the baby's scalp before bedtime. This will allow the oil to soften and loosen the scales. In the morning comb the hair with a fine-tooth comb, or soft brush.

*Rub a small amount of Jojoba Oil into your baby's scalp. The oil will solubilize sebum or excess oily scalp build up and make it easier to brush or comb away.

To learn more about other child health, hygiene and social issues, go to http://www.KidsHygieneAndHealth.com.

Kaaryn Walker is the owner of http://www.KidsHygieneAndHealth.com, offering information, tips and support about childhood hygiene and health related issues. The web site also has an "Ask the Expert" section which allows parents seek answers from trained healthcare professionals and tips from other parents.

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