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How to Handle Cradle Cap

Learn how to handle cradle cap from pediatrician Dyan Hes, M.D. in this Howcast video about newborn and baby development.


So often times parents come in for a well baby check, and they do not even know that their baby has Cradle Cap. And I'm the one who notifies them. Other times, parents call and say that my child has a rash on their scalp and needs to come in.

So Cradle Cap, or Seborrheic Dermatitis, are thick, scaly plaques on a child's scalp. They look could be white, they could look yellowish, and sometimes even brown. They can be matted. And they often cause hair loss, so parents would get very upset about it. Not really bothersome to the baby most of the time. When it's not a severe case, the babies don't itch it or scratch it. It can cover the whole scalp. It can cover one area. It can even go around the ears, behind the ears, and in the ears. And it's an over-protection of oil from the baby's scalp, and also a combination of a yeast.

So how do you treat it? It's not dangerous. And most of the time we just recommend using an over the counter dandruff shampoo. These aren't necessarily baby shampoos, just an over the counter medicated dandruff shampoo, and I recommend that the parents wash the hair. To scrub the scalp, maybe if, gently scrub it with your fingernails, and to rinse away from the baby's eyes. And you can do that two or three times a week.

If the plaques are very thick and dense, you can also loosen the flakes up with some mineral oil, or olive oil. You can put oil on the scalp daily, and use a fine comb and comb out the flakes. Just know that some of your baby's hair might fall out. That hair loss probably would have occurred anyway, but the Seborrheia might actually speed up the process. Your baby's hair will all regrow.

If you notice that your baby is very itchy, or ripping at it, or cutting the scalp with the nails, the scalp could get infected. That's in a very severe case, and in those cases you should definitely bring your baby in to the pediatrician to be checked. Cradle Cap is a very mild childhood rash, and it's very easily treated, and it happens in many babies, and it's nothing dangerous.

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