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If your baby seems to be suffering from a bad case of dandruff, then she probably has a condition known as cradle cap. This condition is treatable and knowing how to identify it quickly will help combat it with more ease.
What is Cradle Cap?
Also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap is a skin condition that affects infants. It starts on the scalp and then can spread to other parts of the body. It is an inflammatory skin condition that is characterised by red bumps that are smaller than infant acne and progresses to form yellow, crusty skin that flakes when touched. Cradle cap usually affects infants within the first three months of their lives and can continue to progress for the first year.
Is Cradle Cap Contagious?
The simple answer is no. The skin condition is not contagious and is harmless if unsightly. It will not cause any form of distress to your baby including itching.
Causes of Cradle Cap in Infants
While no specific reason has been pinpointed towards the manifestation of cradle cap, there can be several underlying causes that trigger this condition.
An excessive production of sebum by the sebaceous glands can cause cradle cap. Sebum keeps the skin smooth and supple. However, if the glands are clogged for whatever reason, they go into an overdrive state with the express intent of unblocking themselves. This causes the yellowish crusts on the scalp.
Heat and humidity
If your child is exposed to damp heat, as in places that have high humidity during summer, then this could cause cradle cap. The heat will dry out the sebaceous glands, causing them to overwork. Due to the dampness, your baby could also suffer from diaper rash.
A fungal infection, such as the Malassezia fungus that affects the sebaceous glands could cause cradle cap.
A significant deficiency of Biotin, one of the B12 vitamins, could cause cradle cap in your baby.
Lack of specific enzymes that convert essential fatty acids has also been linked to the manifestation of cradle cap.
Over washing your child’s head will result in the drying out of the sebaceous glands. Some shampoo products could also be too harsh for your baby’s delicate skin.
Common Symptoms Of Cradle Cap
There are a few signs you can keep a look out for when it comes to a skin condition like Cradle Cap.
- Yellowish or brown scales on the scalp, shoulders, and on the neck region.
- Excessively oily skin.
- Whitish skin that flakes when touched.
- A dry scalp with raised red bumps
How long does Cradle Cap last?
The good news about Cradle Cap is that it will disappear on its own. While it usually manifests in the first three months of your baby’s life, it should disappear by the 8th to 12th month. However, there have been cases where the Cradle Cap has reoccurred in patches during the later years.
Treatment For Cradle Cap
There are certain remedies that you could try to alleviate the occurrence of Cradle Cap on your baby. These include:
- Air conditioning can dry out your baby’s sensitive skin. If you live in a region that does not allow you to switch off the air conditioning, then use a humidifier on a low setting to help your baby’s skin retain moisture.
- Massage your baby’s scalp and then use a gentle brush with soft bristle made especially for babies and brush the scalp daily.
- An important method to cure cradle cap is oil treatment. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the oil will help restore balance to your baby’s skin while nourishing and moisturising the same.
- Use a shampoo that is formulated especially for babies. Read through the ingredients list and make sure there is nothing in there that causes an allergy.
- Use a mild moisturiser for the scalp after shampooing. Talk to your doctor about which brand is the safest for your child’s skin.
- Sometimes, even the formula that you feed your baby could cause Cradle Cap. Consult your doctor regarding the same and switch to a brand that suits your baby better.
- Make a paste with equal parts of water and baking soda and apply generously to the affected area. Let this paste sit for a while before washing off with water. This method has proven to be particularly efficient in cradle cap removal.
How to Prevent Cradle Cap in Babies?
While is it impossible to remove the chances of the occurrence of cradle cap entirely, there are specific steps you may take to reduce the incidence.
- Brush your baby’s scalp with a soft brush on a daily basis.
- Keep your baby’s scalp dry and clean.
- If oil your baby’s scalp, then make sure to wash it off with a gentle baby-formula shampoo.
- Try to maintain ideal temperature and humidity conditions for the baby.
Word Of Caution
Under no circumstance must you try to peel away the yellow scales on your baby’s scalp. Doing so could result in the skin peeling, causing bleeding. Once the scalp clears up, you must ensure that you take extra care with cleaning and maintaining the health of your baby’s scalp for a few months.
If any lesions do occur on your baby’s skin, make sure to clean them daily to prevent any fungal or bacterial growth.
Tips For Breastfeeding Mothers
If you are choosing to breastfeed your child, then you can follow the below tips to tackle the occurrence of cradle cap on your baby.
- Do not eat excessive amounts of sugar. The sugar can increase the rate of growth of fungus and bacteria in your baby.
- Studies have shown that if the mother consumes foods that are known to cause allergies, then these can pass on to the baby and cause allergies too. Hence, it is best to avoid common allergenic foods like milk, eggs, and gluten.
- Cut down on saturated animal fats like red meat and chicken. Instead, stick to fish for your protein intake. You must consult your doctor further on this issue.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus is a germ bacterium that is known to fight cradle cap. You can consult your doctor and have a capsule of the same daily.
- Stick to a diet that is not rich or spicy. This will help combat the cradle cap afflicting your baby.
- Maintain good hygiene while breastfeeding
When should you Consult a Doctor?
There are some instances of Cradle Cap where it is best to seek immediate medical advice. A severe attack of cradle cap can cause the skin to crack and bleed. This could also be an indication of a weak immune system. If a case of Cradle Cap occurs in conjunction with prolonged diarrhoea, then you must consult your paediatrician.
The cradle cap symptoms could also spread to other parts of your baby’s body. If your baby seems to be having a fungal infection that is persistent and does not go away with antibiotics, then you must not hesitate in seeking help from an experienced paediatrician.
While cradle cap is not a harmful condition and disappears on its own, you must keep a close check on the same. In case you notice any other signs of illness, then it is best to consult your doctor right away.