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Cradle cap

Seborrheic dermatitis - infant; Infantile seborrheic dermatitis

Cradle cap is seborrheic dermatitis that affects the scalp of infants.

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Causes

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common, inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, white to yellowish scales to form on oily areas such as the scalp.

The exact cause of cradle cap is not known. Doctors think the condition is due to oil glands in the baby's scalp producing too much oil.

Cradle cap is not spread from person to person (contagious). It is also not caused by poor hygiene. It is not an allergy, and it is not dangerous.

Cradle cap often lasts a few months. In some children, the condition can last until age 2 or 3.

Symptoms

Parents may notice the following:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider can often diagnose cradle cap by looking at your baby's scalp.

Treatment

Antibiotics will be prescribed if your baby's scalp has an infection.

Depending on how severe the condition is, other medicines may be prescribed. These may include medicated creams or shampoos.

Most cases of cradle cap can be managed at home. Here are some tips:

If the scales continue to be a problem or your child seems uncomfortable or scratches the scalp all the time, call your child's provider.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your child's provider if:

References

Bender NR, Chiu YE. Eczematous disorders. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 674.

Waldman RA, Grant-Kels JM. Scalp dermatitis. In: Waldman RA, Grant-Kels JM, eds. Dermatology for the Primary Care Provider. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 1.

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Review Date: 5/24/2021  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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