Seborrheic dermatitis in infants (cradle cap or crib cap)

Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is a harmless skin condition that can occur between the ages of 3 weeks and 12 months. It appears as patches of yellowish, greasy crusts on the baby's scalp, and is sometimes accompanied by redness on other parts of the body such as:

  • In the creases of the neck
  • In the armpits
  • Behind the ears
  • On the face
  • In the diaper area

The condition may also cause mild itching. Overall however, the child is usually well, with no loss of appetite or sleep disruption.

Causes and triggers

The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis in infants is unknown, but may involve a reaction to a yeast naturally present on the skin's surface. Another contributing factor may involve hormones that are passed from the mother to the baby before birth.

Treatment

Seborrheic dermatitis in infants usually resolves on its own within a few weeks or months, and symptoms may come and go. The following measures may help control symptoms:

  • Apply a small amount of oil (vegetable oil, mineral oil, baby oil) on the head to soften the crusty patches then use a soft bristle brush or a fine-tooth comb to lift the scaly skin.
    • Shampoo hair after brushing to remove excess oil.
  • Wash hair frequently with gentle baby shampoo (non medicated), then use a soft bristle brush or fine-tooth comb to lift the scaly skin.
  • When needed, apply ointment or a moisturizing cream (e.g., Glaxal Base) 2 to 3 times a day to skin that is dry, scaly and thick.

Your healthcare provider may also recommend the application of a mild hydrocortisone cream (0.5%) or an antifungal on the affected area.

When should I see a medical professional?

  • If using a hydrocortisone cream and symptoms persist for more than one week, or if symptoms persist for more than two weeks after starting an antifungal treatment.
  • If symptoms persist beyond the age of 12 months.

For more information:

Canadian Paediatric Society

www.cps.ca

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