Who's Afraid of Cradle Cap?

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking cradle cap was a cute piece of baby clothing. It's not, though. It's a chronic skin condition that's also known as seborrheic dermatitis. The second name actually sounds like a skin disorder.

Different names, different mental images - what's in a name, right? Well, everything.

OK, cradle cap by any other name would not be a good thing. But it sure sounds less frightening than the other, tongue-twisting name, don't you think?

It's called seborrheic dermatitis because this skin condition affects areas of the body that have plenty of sebaceous (oily) glands. You know, like the eyebrows, scalp and chest.

The condition has been linked to a lot of things. Like overgrown yeast species that normally live in the oil glands. And there are other factors - hormone levels, fungal infections, nutritional deficiencies and changes in essential fatty acid patterns.

But these are all - well - links. We don't yet have a complete understanding of what causes seborrheic dermatitis.

Cradle cap often appears in children who are less than 3 months. It usually clears up without medical treatment by the time the child is one year old.

The limited life span of the condition may be down to the high levels of hormones that are transferred from the mother to the baby through the placenta. The levels decrease by the end of baby's first year.

Older children may develop dandruff at puberty. This is also a form of seborrheic dermatitis but dandruff affects children who are no longer at the cradle stage.

So how can you tell if your baby has the cradle form of seborrheic dermatitis? It isn't always easy to tell because this skin condition can be confused with others like eczema and psoriasis.

With cradle cap, there will be thick, greasy and non-itchy scales (white or yellow or a color in between) on the scalp. The baby's face, ears and forehead may also have a bit of scaling, but this is usually nothing to worry about.

If other areas of the body have more than a few scales, then have your baby checked by a healthcare professional for immuno deficiencies.

The thing to remember is that "cradle dandruff" will often go away by the end of baby's first year - yay!

You can help it on its way by shampooing every day and loosening the scales.

In most cases, you only need to use a mild (that's non-medicated) shampoo every day for about a week. Warm a little olive oil and apply it to the baby's scalp for at least 20 minutes.

This will help loosen the scales, which can then be removed with a baby hair brush or your fingertips. Then wash the baby's hair, using a mild shampoo.

That's it - you're done. It's bye bye greasy scales and welcome back healthy baby scalp. Medical treatment is often not necessary.

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