Scratching your head over cradle cap?

Cradle cap,– even though unsightly,– is not contagious and does not cause your baby any discomfort. It's nothing to break your head about if you take a look at the causes and treatments.

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Many new mummies will scratch their heads over cradle cap and how to combat it. Seeing your defenseless baby’'s scalp covered in what appears to be discoloured scales is enough to make anyone feel like a bad mum. However, there was nothing you did or didn't do that caused cradle cap, so there is no need to be so hard on yourself.

In fact, it is a rather common condition in newborns, and even children up to the age of three can contract it. Cradle cap starts as greasy white or yellowy scales on the scalp, and while the rash is usually contained to small patches, it can also spread to cover your baby'’s entire head, and even the eyebrows, eyelids, ears and neck before it moves downwards. Doctors refer to this as seborreheic dermatitis, but it'’s simply cradle cap in layman's terms.

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All is not as bad as it first appears. Cradle cap, – even though unsightly,– is not contagious and does not cause your baby any discomfort. The condition is completely harmless in most cases and will clear up spontaneously. If your baby suffers from eczema as well, it might exacerbate cradle cap, causing the skin to crack and ooze. It is difficult to look at this skin condition without wanting to do something about it.

What causes infant cradle cap?

Doctors are still speculating about the exact cause, but they do know without a doubt that the condition is NOT caused by poor hygiene or allergies. However, there is a theory that cradle cap is nothing more than a fungal infection. If you have been taking antibiotics before the birth or if your little one was introduced to antibiotics in the first week, it can lead to cradle cap. While antibiotics destroy bad bacteria, it also wipes out the “good guys” that keep fungal infections in check.

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Experts also generally agree that cradle cap might have something to do with the hormones your baby received from you towards the end of your pregnancy. These hormones cause the oil producing seborrheic glands to get excited and overstimulated,– not quite unlike how acne is formed in teenagers,– with cradle cap as the end result.

How do you treat cradle cap?

As mentioned, you don'’t really have to do anything but wait it out. If you find the rash unsightly, there are a few things you can try:

  • Apply some oil on your baby'’s scalp and leave it in for about fifteen minutes to loosen the flakes and scales. Always choose a natural and gentle and conditioning oil like olive or grape, but baby oil will also suffice.
  • Gently comb out the flakes with a soft haired brush or comb, but be careful not to snag your baby's superfine hairs.
  • Follow up by washing your baby's scalp with a gentle baby shampoo. Leaving the oil on will only serve to clog the pores, so you need to rinse it out. While you might be tempted to wash your baby'’s hair more often, don'’t. Doctors suggest that this will only stimulate the oil producing glands more.

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  • Never ever pick at your baby’s scalp, as you will only make matters worse as you put your baby'’s already sensitive skin at risk for infection.

If the cradle cap is severe or starts to crack, talk to your paediatrician. He or she will most likely prescribe a gentle cortisone cream or topical anti-fungal treatment. You should refrain from buying over-the-counter products without the consent of your doctor.

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Source: Cradle cap

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