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Cradle cap is very common especially in new born babies. It usually appears in the early few months of life (often in the first 6 weeks) and usually clears up on its own in about 6 to 12 months – very rarely lasting several years. Although medical research has not yet come up with a definite cause, it is known that cradle cap (also known as crusta lacteal) is not caused by infection, poor hygiene or allergies and it is not contagious.
Cradle cap has the appearance of greasy, yellow scaly patches over the scalp. Sometimes, a thick scaly layer may cover the whole scalp. After a while, the scales may become flaky and rub off easily. The babies themselves are usually unaware of the condition as there is no itchiness. The condition is temporary and harmless. The same rash is often prominent around the ear, the eyebrows or the eyelids. It may appear in other locations as well, where it is called seborrheic dermatitis rather than cradle cap.
Mothers are often worried about the unsightly appearance of their babies when they have cradle cap so here are some home treatments for mild cases of cradle cap:
The scalp can be washed regularly with a mild baby shampoo - that is one with the least amount of potential irritants. Brushing with a soft brush can help to remove the scales.
Some people suggest the use of small amounts of baby oil which if rubbed on to the affected areas may help to soften the scales which can then be removed more easily with a fine toothed comb. This treatment needs to be done very gently otherwise it can worsen the condition and bring about temporary hair loss.
Applying Vaseline liberally overnight is another popular treatment. The softened scales either fall off during the night or can be brushed off in the morning.
Another suggestion is applying a paste made from sodium bicarbonate (baking powder) which is left on for 10 minutes.
If you are concerned about your baby’s cradle cap e.g. if the condition thickens, turns red and irritated, starts to spread, appears on other parts of the body or if your baby also develops a persistent diaper rash, then it is wise to seek your doctor’s advice. Cradle cap is also occasionally linked to immune disorders so if your baby is not thriving and has other problems, then also contact your doctor. Sometimes eczema or a milk allergy can coexist or masquerade as cradle cap.
However, most cases of cradle cap are a simple problem which can be treated with simple measures.