Cradle Cap in Babies– Symptoms, Cause & Treatment

Medically referred to as neonatal, infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis or honeycomb disease, cradle cap is a health condition associated with development of skin rashes on the scalp of newly born babies. The condition mostly develops after three months of birth. Older babies and toddlers can also develop the condition.

Development of cradle cap is usually not a problem to an infant, baby or toddler. Although it mostly develops on the scalp, it can spread to such other parts of the body as the nose, neck, armpits, around external ear, eyebrows, nappy area and behind the ears.

Cradle cap normally clears off on its own as a baby grows. However, it can persist until when a baby attains teenage, in which case it can easily transform to become psoriasis or eczema.


Cradle cap generally remains a mild condition. It is very rare for the condition to become severe. It presents itself as small rashes on the scalp. The rashes are yellowish in color and can be patchy scales that are greasy. It does not cause any form of itch and a baby remains very comfortable.
Although a mild condition, the associated scales can become thick and reddish in color, which can result in irritation of the scalp and any other part of a baby’s skin that it has spread to. Such thick scales can also be fertile ground for bacterial or fungal infections.


Medical experts associate development of cradle cap to several factors one of which is disorder in a baby’s immune system and in particular an overactive sebaceous gland. The body’s immune system is very complex and it is not clear how it contributes to development of the condition. An overactive sebaceous gland on the skin of newborns can be caused by presence of mother’s hormones in a baby’s system, which leads to accumulation of dry skin cells on the scalp.

Cradle cap is not a contagious condition and is not caused by bacteria, fungi or any other infection. Development of the condition is believed to be hereditary since babies diagnosed with the condition have been found to be in families with known skin conditions such as eczema. Babies who develop the condition also remain at risk of developing other skin conditions in the future.


Effective cradle cap treatment usually starts with proper diagnosis. Pediatricians do try their best to eliminate other skin conditions to ensure that it is cradle cap that they have to deal with.

Treating the condition largely depends on whether or not the resultant rashes and scales are already infected by either bacteria or fungi in which case a pediatrician can prescribe mild antibiotic or antifungal topical cream.

Pediatricians do not normally recommend use of shampoos. This is because although they are helpful in managing the condition, most baby shampoos contain perfumes, sulfur and surfactants. These can easily cause irritation on the scalp, which can worsen the condition.


Cradle cap can easily be managed to help affected baby remain comfortable before the condition subsides. Regular gentle massage with petroleum jelly goes a long way in preventing dryness of the scalp. Regular brushing with soft brush also helps in removing dead skin cells, which reduces the risk of dead skin cell accumulation.

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