Usually starts appearing in the first 2 months of your babys life but cradle cap can appear up to 12 months old and more. It varies in appearance depending on severity. The appearance of cradle cap can look like scales of dandruff to patches of greasy yellow / brown crust. 10% of babies will experience cradle cap in the first month of life, whilst up to 70% by 3 months of life. It starts on the scalp and can spread to the eyebrows and behind the ears. It is not limited to the head and face – if the skin rash develops on the body – behind the knees, arm pits it is described as seborrheic eczema. Here are the 3 biggest myths about cradle cap:
Its caused by poor hygiene – Absolutely not. Cradle cap is caused by the increased production of sebum in the skin of the scalp, forehead, eyebrows and behind the ears, possibly as a result of mums hormones remaining in the baby’s body. It cannot be prevented by more frequent washing or use of particular cleansers etc but it can be treated.
Cradle cap is contagious and infectious – No cradle cap is not contagious. It can become infected with a fungal infection but even if it does develop a fungal infection it is still not contagious. Avoid picking at it or scratching it in order to prevent the development of infection. If it becomes smelly or more severe in appearance and not responding to treatment its time to see the GP.
It is itchy and causes my baby discomfort – Whilst cradle cap can look red and crusty there is no evidence to suggest that your baby is aware of its presence or that it is causing discomfort or pain.
Cradle cap can be treated easily. Mild cases will usually resolve without any intervention. If you are breastfeeding cover the area in breast milk – its a natural cure all – antibiotic, anti fungal! Otherwise the following are steps for effective treatment:
- Apply a coconut or almond oil to the affected area. You can add 1 drop of tea tree oil to 10mls of carrier oil as an antifungal treatment.
- Leave it to soak in for around 15 minutes
- Using a dry flannel rub the scaley area and using a baby comb – not wide toothed. comb through. Hair may come away from the affected area – this is normal and will grow back.
- Wash hair with a mild shampoo every few days to prevent recurrence of build up
- If this method doesn’t resolve the issue a special cradle cap shampoo can be used to treat the area eg dentinox shampoo. These shampoos can be very effective if you decide to take this route.
Cradle cap is rarely serious and is just unsightly more than anything.