Cradle Cap/Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap)?

Also called cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis in the infant is characterized by fine white scales. However, seborrheic dermatitis can also occur in the diaper area, face, neck, and trunk. Seborrheic dermatitis in this age group usually clears within the first year. This is a noninfectious skin condition that's very common in infants. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), seborrheic dermatitis is rarely uncomfortable or itchy.

What causes cradle cap?

The exact cause of this skin condition is not known. The AAP states that there is some belief that the overproduction of oil from the infant's oil glands may contribute to the scales and redness of the skin.

What does cradle cap look like?

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of cradle cap. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms include dry or greasy white to yellowish scales that form on oily areas of the scalp.

How is cradle cap diagnosed?

Cradle cap is usually diagnosed based on physical examination of your child. The rash involved with cradle cap is unique, and can usually be diagnosed simply on physical examination.

Treatment for cradle cap:

Specific treatment for cradle cap will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Although the condition responds to treatment, it may recur. Treatment is usually effective in helping symptoms and may include:

  • Rubbing the scalp with baby oil or petroleum jelly (to soften crusts before washing)
  • Special shampoo, as prescribed by your child's physician
  • Corticosteroid cream or lotion prescribed if other treatments do not work


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