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Cradle Cap

Topic Overview

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is an oily, yellow scaling or crusting on a baby's scalp. It is common in babies and is easily treated. Cradle cap is not a part of any illness and does not imply that a baby is not being well cared for.

What causes cradle cap?

Cradle cap is the normal buildup of sticky skin oils, scales, and sloughed skin cells.

How is it treated?

Cradle cap is not harmful to your baby. It usually goes away by a baby's first birthday.

Home treatment is usually all that is needed for cradle cap.

  • An hour before shampooing, rub your baby's scalp with baby oil, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly to help lift the crusts and loosen scales.
  • When ready to shampoo, first get the scalp wet, then gently scrub the scalp with a soft-bristle brush (a soft toothbrush works well) for a few minutes to remove the scales. You can also try gently removing the scales with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Then wash the scalp with baby shampoo, rinse well, and gently towel dry.

When should I call the doctor?

If the above measures do not work, talk to your doctor before using a dandruff shampoo. If these products get in your baby's eyes, they can cause irritation. Your doctor may prescribe other medicines.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Skin. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 813–836. New York: Bantam.
  • Hall JC (2010). Seborrheic dermatitis, acne, and rosacea. In JC Hall, ed., Sauer's Manual of Skin Diseases, 9th ed., pp. 149–159. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised February 1, 2013

Last Revised: February 1, 2013

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