Cradle cap 

Introduction 

Cradle cap is a common harmless condition in young babies 

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Cradle cap is the name given to the yellowish, greasy scaly patches that appear on the scalp of young babies. It is a very common, harmless condition that doesn't usually itch or cause discomfort to the baby.

Cradle cap appears most often in babies in the first two months and tends to last only a few weeks or months. It usually clears up by the age of two, although in rare cases children can have cradle cap for a lot longer.

How to spot cradle cap

Cradle cap is recognisable by the large, greasy, yellow or brown scales that appear on your baby’s scalp. These scales will eventually start to flake and may make the affected skin appear red. Sometimes the hair may also come away with the flakes.

Read more about the signs of cradle cap.

Cradle cap causes

Exactly what causes cradle cap is not clear, although it may be linked to overactive sebaceous glands. These are glands in the skin that produce an oily substance called sebum. Cradle cap is not contagious and is not due to poor health or hygiene.

Read more about the causes of cradle cap.

Does it need treatment?

There is no specific treatment for cradle cap and it usually clears up on its own in time. Gently washing your baby's hair and scalp may prevent a build-up of the scales and gently massaging oil into the scalp at night may help to loosen the crust.

It’s important not to pick at the scales as this may cause an infection. Read more on treating cradle cap.

The medical term for cradle cap is seborrhoeic dermatitis. It occurs most commonly on the scalp, but can also appear on the face, ears and neck or in folds of skin such as at the back of the knees and armpits.

You don’t usually need to see your GP for cradle cap, although you may want to ask your health visitor or GP for advice if your baby’s scalp becomes inflamed or the cradle cap spreads to other parts of their body.

Last reviewed: 27/07/2011

Next review due: 27/07/2013

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