When my first child was five weeks old, he developed a nasty patch of crusty scales on the top of his scalp. To my inexperienced eye, the scales resembled large chunks of dried yellow-tinted mucus, which I thought the baby was rolling in during the night. It wasn’t until our six-week checkup that we learned the scaly scalp was actually the visible symptoms of “cradle cap.”
Symptoms of Cradle Cap
Cradle cap gets it’s name from the fact that this skin problem usually happens in babies with the patchy scales resembling a sort of “cap.” According to the Mayo Clinic website, the typical symptoms of cradle cap are much like what my baby experienced, that is, a patchwork of dried mucus-looking white or yellow scales.
Cradle cap looks a cluster of scales or thick crusty mucus that usually forms on the scalp, though it may also turn up under the chin or behind the ears. Occasionally the symptoms of cradle cap may even resemble greasy skin covered with yellow or white scales. Additional symptoms that infants may experience in conjunction with the scaly scalp is flaking skin or dandruff, or a little redness. Fortunately, cradle cap is totally treatable and usually clears up within a couple of months.
So what causes cradle cap? No one knows for sure, but most physicians believe that the cause may be due to overactive oil glands in the infants. Because the scalp is oily, the sloughing skin sticks to the scalp to form this crusty scale, instead of falling off. Cradle cap is not, however, caused by poor hygiene, allergies or even an infection, so you can set your mind at ease on that point.
How to Treat Cradle Cap
While some pediatricians may prescribe medication or ointments for cradle cap, your baby’s physician may recommend a simpler method of addressing cradle cap instead. The most popular treatment, which happened to be what my son’s pediatrician prescribed, is a daily shampooing using baby shampoo followed by a gentle brushing of the scalp. The best brush to use is that small-sized baby brush you may have received in the hospital as part of your newborn gift pack.
Daily shampooing and brushing will stimulate the scalp while gently removing the dead skin. Within two weeks, the improvement should be quite noticeable. After six to eight weeks, the cradle cap should disappear entirely.
This easy treatment is usually all it takes to remove the visible symptoms of cradle cap in your infant. If, however, the cradle cap doesn’t show any improvement after a few weeks of daily shampooing and brushing, call your infant’s healthcare provider for alternative treatment options.
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Cradle Cap: Treatments and Drugs,” MayoClinic.com.
“Cradle Cap,” Peoples-Health.com.