DESCRIPTIONCradle cap causes the scalp of an infant or a child up to age 3 to have a thick yellow encrustation. It is not caused by poor hygiene. It is one of the manifestations of seborrheic dermatitis. (See Dermatitis, Seborrheic for treatment of older children).
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSThick, yellow scales over part or all of the child's scalp. Sometimes the base of these scales is red.
Discomfort or itching (rare).
Overproduction of oil glands in the child's skin and scalp.
RISK FACTORSHot, humid weather or cold, dry weather.
Other skin disorders, such as psoriasis.
Use of drying lotions that contain alcohol.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Brush the child's hair daily with a soft-bristled brush.
Don't scrub hard while washing the child's hair. Bring the shampoo to a lather and quickly rinse thoroughly.
MEDICAL TESTSYour own observation of symptoms.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSSecondary bacterial infection, causing crusts, oozing, fever, and swollen lymph glands in the child's neck.
Curable quickly with appropriate treatment.
Gently scrub the child's scalp, massaging with your fingers or a soft brush. Use soap and water or a mild shampoo every day until the scaling is controlled, then continue to shampoo twice weekly. Be sure to cleanse over the baby's "soft spot," which is really well protected. Often when the scalp is cleared, any accompanying rash elsewhere on the child's body will clear. Keep shampoos and skin products out of reach of infants.
If the crusts are thick and will not come off with gentle scrubbing, keep applying mineral oil and warm wet cloths around the child's head for a few hours before shampooing to loosen the crusts.
In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe a cream or lotion to be used on the child's scalp four times a day. This cream or lotion should be used only on a small area for the first few days to be sure the child's skin will tolerate it. Then it can be applied more liberally.
The hair on many infants will fall out at 3 to 4 months of age. This is not due to the rash or the treatment.
After shampooing, comb and brush the child's hair thoroughly. Use a fine comb. Rinse the comb in an antiseptic or in scalding water after each use.
MEDICATIONFor severe problems, your doctor may prescribe shampoos that contain coal tar, or scalp creams that contain cortisone. To apply medication to the child's scalp, part the hair a few strands at a time and rub the ointment or lotion vigorously into the scalp.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
DIET & FLUIDS
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your baby has symptoms of cradle cap that don't respond to self-care.
Patches ooze, form crusts, or drain pus.
Your baby develops fever and/or enlarged glands at the back of the scalp or in the neck.