Cradle cap: Simple treatments are most effective

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Cradle cap: Simple treatments are most effective

Cradle cap isn't pretty, but it's harmless. Simple treatments work best.

Cradle cap isn't pretty. But there's good news. Cradle cap is harmless, and it won't last long. Here's what you need to know about treating and preventing cradle cap.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is a common condition characterized by scaly patches on a baby's scalp. The patches may be thick, yellow, crusty or greasy.

Cradle cap is most common in newborns. Researchers don't know what causes cradle cap. It's not contagious, and it probably won't bother your baby.

Cradle cap

Image of cradle cap

Cradle cap is characterized by scaly patches on a baby's scalp. You may notice thick, yellow patches of skin. The patches may be crusty or greasy.

What's the best way to treat cradle cap?

Cradle cap usually clears up on its own within a few months. In the meantime, wash your baby's hair once a day with mild baby shampoo. Loosen the scales with a small, soft-bristled brush before rinsing off the shampoo.

If the scales don't loosen easily, rub a few drops of mineral oil onto your baby's scalp. Let the oil soak into the scales for a few minutes, and then brush and shampoo your baby's hair as usual. If you leave the oil in your baby's hair, it may only allow more scales to accumulate on your baby's scalp.

If frequent shampooing doesn't help or the scaly patches spread beyond your baby's scalp, consult your baby's doctor. He or she may recommend a stronger shampoo — such as an adult dandruff shampoo containing 1 percent selenium — to help dissolve the scales or cortisone cream to reduce inflammation.

For older babies, scalp ringworm infections may resemble cradle cap. This condition may require a prescription antifungal shampoo.

Can cradle cap be prevented?

Shampooing your baby's hair every few days can help prevent cradle cap. Stick with a mild baby shampoo unless your baby's doctor recommends something stronger.

Last Updated: 06/08/2006
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