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Does Cradle Cap hurt babies?


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 shampoo for cradle cap 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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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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Should I leave my baby's cradle cap?

Cradle cap is one of the most common conditions in babies. Usually, it disappears within a few months, and sometimes it may persist. No special treatments are required because cradle cap is harmless and is not contagious.
However, neither you or baby has to endure the sometimes unsightly appearance. If a reduction in scaling, flaking and future buildup is desired,regularly wash the baby’s scalp with a medicated shampoo.
You can gently rub your baby’s scalp with your finger tips, cradle cap brush, or fine-toothed comb to gently remove the scales.
Using a cradle cap brush with soft bristles gently on the scalp is recommended. Brush the baby’s scalp with cradle cap brush while shampooing to remove excess scales. Make sure never to forcefully remove stubborn scales or pick at scales..

What age is most common for cradle cap?

According to research, around 70% who were affected by cradle cap were infants between 3 and 12 months. However, 30% were toddlers between the ages of 1 to 3 years.

Can cradle cap hurt my baby?

Don’t worry, cradle cap is a common skin condition in babies. It does not harm and is not dangerous for your baby’s health. It causes thick crusty scales on the scalp and other parts of the body that may look disturbing.
Rest assured these scales do not cause itching, pain or discomfort to your baby. However these symptoms can be reduced by using a medicated shampoo.

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