By Dr. Eddie Valenzuela

We are used to the idea of a baby having flawless skin, “softer than a babies butt,” some will say. But in reality, a newborns skin is anything but immaculate. Babies born close to full term are have widespread peeling of their skin, a few days after birth they get red spots that come and go all over that kind of look like ant bites—they call this erythema toxicum. They may have been born with fine pinpoint white spots on their nose—milia. Then by 1 month of age they may get red dots all over their cheeks—neonatal acne.  All of these afflictions described above are completely normal and expected.

Just as some of these rashes mentioned above are starting to clear, and you think thank goodness that’s over, there is a 50% chance you get another round of skin issues. You may start to see flaking on the scalp, and flakes on the eyebrows as early as 3-4 weeks of age. Most people call this flaking and scaling—cradle cap.  Most doctors call cradle cap by its technical name—seborrheic dermatitis. What can be intense and localized flaking and scale on the head (in the hair) may lead many parents to ask, does cradle cap hurt babies?

Cradle cap, may not be the most lovely to look at, and may smell unpleasant on your 2 month old but increased flaking in itself it is not harmful. Cradle cap, however, can make certain areas of the body red and can make the skin weep, and when this occurs it can become itchy—THIS would possibly be uncomfortable for a baby.

Typical areas where redness occurs is behind the ears, in the neck folds, and in the folds of the groin.  It would be prudent at this point to use a seborrheic dermatitis shampoo and body wash made specifically for a child that can reduce this itchiness, and redness and scale, and if after 1-2 weeks of using a medicated shampoo and body wash the child still has no improvement then an appointment should me made with a health care provider.

Does cradle cap hurt?

As a pediatrician, I have seen many parents who think that scale behind the ears is dirt, because the child is perfectly content.  I have also seen many parents who think the scale inside their happy baby’s ears is ear wax, but really this is also the flaking associated with cradle cap a.k.a. seborrheic dermatitis.

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