What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap, or seborrheic dermatitis, is a scalp condition frequently seen in infants and very young children. It is caused by the overproduction of sebum or oils by the sebaceous glands. Cradle cap is characterized by flaky patches of skin that can develop white or yellowish crusting scales. This usually occurs on the scalp, but may sometimes appear inside the ear or on the face, especially in the creases of the nose, lips, eyelids or eyebrows. It can also occur in skin folds in the middle of the baby’s body. Sometimes the affected skin may be reddened, but in most cases, cradle cap does not itch.

Cradle cap is not contagious or serious, though in rare instances when itching occurs, excessive scratching may cause bleeding, inflammation, or even secondary infection. While seborrheic dermatitis can be a lifelong condition for adults, in infants it is a harmless and temporary condition.

Cradle cap is not associated in any way with poor hygiene or allergies; instead, it is caused by overproduction of sebum, or natural oils, by the sebaceous glands. The cause of this overproduction is not known. It is possible that a yeast called malessizia plays a role in its origins. Cradle cap is not associated with any other known conditions. It is thought that weather extremes, fatigue, and infrequent shampooing might make it worse, but none of these are the actual cause of the condition. Most cases of cradle cap develop in infancy and disappear by age three.

Cradle cap is never a serious condition. However, in rare instances of itching, excessive scratching may cause bleeding or inflammation. Seek prompt medical care if your child has cradle cap that has been aggravated by constant scratching and shows signs of frequent bleeding, inflammation, or persistent scratch sores that do not heal due to constant disruption from scratching.


What are the symptoms of cradle cap?

Symptoms of cradle cap include mild symptoms that are marked most consistently by flaky patches of skin. These patches may become thickened and crusty.

Common symptoms of cradle cap

Your child may experience cradle cap symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these symptoms can lead to inflammation if aggravated by excessive scratching:


What causes cradle cap?

Cradle cap is caused by the overproduction of sebum, or natural oils of the skin, by the sebaceous glands. The cause of this overproduction is not known. It is speculated that a yeast called malessizia may play a role in causing cradle cap. Cradle cap is not associated with poor hygiene or allergies.

W... Read more about cradle capcauses


How is cradle cap treated?

For infants, medicated dandruff shampoos are too harsh. Instead, cradle cap is treated with a variety of physical techniques, and the only products used on the skin are mild shampoos (such as baby shampoo) and mineral oils.

Treatment strategies for cradle cap

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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