The cradle cap condition in infants is a common cause of concern among many new parents. However, there is nothing to worry about it because, it’s a harmless condition, which can be treated in several ways. Read this article to get a brief overview of what cradle cap exactly is and how it can be treated.
Cradle cap is a scalp condition found mostly in babies within the first three months of their birth. In this condition, dry and scaly patches appear on the surface of the scalp and look very similar to dandruff. Even though it is mostly confined to the scalp, sometimes, it may spread to the neck, around the ears, and eyebrows. In general, it does not cause any problem to the health of the baby. Only in some severe cases, it may cause itching. Usually, these crusty patches disappear on their own after a few months. But some babies continue to have them intermittently for few years.
The exact cause behind this scalp problem in infants is not known. There is a misconception that it could be due to poor hygiene, infection, or some kind of allergic reaction. Many experts believe that it is triggered by certain hormones that the newborns receive from their mother just before birth. These hormones make the oil producing glands overactive and produce an oily substance in a large amount. As a result, the greasy surface of the scalp holds on to the old skin cells and do not let them fall off. The dried skin cells then appear as thick, crusty skin rash. This is absolutely a normal condition and it subsides as soon as the oil production of the sebaceous glands returns to normal.
You can use vegetable oil like olive oil or a baby oil for treating this scalp condition. Take a small amount of oil and massage it on those areas of baby’s scalp, where you can see scales, with the help of your fingers. Let the oil sit on the scalp for half an hour or so. This will help to loosen up the dry scales. Then use a soft baby hair brush or a dry terry-cloth to remove the scales. The oil treatment should be followed by washing of the scalp with a normal baby shampoo. Never leave the oil on the baby’s scalp, as it can clog the skin pores.
Apply the baby shampoo, that you use regularly, all over the scalp. Wait for a few minutes and wash it off with lukewarm water. Dry up with a soft towel and brush the scalp. Brushing will clean up the dry scales that are left behind. When the symptoms are severe, shampoo the scalp more frequently. If required, you can use a mild baby shampoo almost daily. As the scalp condition improves, you can reduce it to twice a week. However, too much of shampooing should be avoided, as it can have adverse effects and may dry up the scalp skin and aggravate the symptoms.
Petroleum jelly can be safely used to get rid of cradle cap. Apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly on all those parts where the scales are visible. Allow it to stay on the scalp through the night. Next morning, you will find that most scales have fallen off. If some dead skin cells are still left behind, then you can brush them off by gently moving your fingers on the baby’s scalp.
In case, the symptoms are severe and home remedies fail to show any desired effect, then you must consult your pediatrician. They often prescribe medicated shampoos for treating the condition. If scalp inflammation is observed, then they may recommend topical application of cortisone creams on the scalp. However, do not try any of them on your own without consulting a doctor.