Concerning Cradle Cap

cradle capIf you are a first-time mom, the chances are that you have heard about cradle cap but you are not too sure what it is, how to control it and how to avoid it. Cradle cap is very common and contrary to popular belief, the strange flaky, scalp disorder is not caused by poor hygiene or by a poor diet; the fact is that cradle cap is usually the result of either a fungal infection or it may be due to the baby’s sebaceous glands which are too active.

If you have been told that poor hygiene is the root cause of your baby’s cradle cap, this is far from the truth, as are other speculations that the condition is caused because of bacteria or due to an allergy – paediatricians are in full agreement that cradle cap is most definitely linked to a combination of fungal infection or overactive sebaceous glands.


What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is yellow in appearance and is an almost crusty skin disorder that is found on the scalp of a newborn or very young baby. Even though cradle cap appears unpleasant, it’s not itchy and causes no nuisance to the baby, whatsoever. Moms are probably far more worried about cradle cap than most doctors (except in severe cases) – as for years, moms have been told that cradle cap is due to poor hygiene. Other than being found on the scalp, traces of the patchy, yellowish and crusty rash may also be found around the ears, on the eyebrows and eyelids. Cradle cap is very common and just about 50% of all newborn babies develop cradle cap, and severe cases of this widespread fungal infection are very rare.


Causes of cradle cap

One cause of cradle cap may be in cases when expectant mums are prescribed antibiotics just before the birth of the baby, or where the newborn infant is prescribed a course of antibiotics to treat a particular condition. Antibiotics are used to eradicate dangerous bacteria but at the same time, antibiotics are also known to destroy a lot of good bacteria and this prevents the growth of yeast. As such, fungus may develop on the scalp of infants (known as cradle cap), or fungus may even start to appear in various other areas of the body, for instance thrush (the mouth), nappy rash, and even a fungal growth in the ear, which is known as a fungal ear infection (which will not be successfully treated with a course of antibiotics).

A baby could also develop cradle cap as a result of a biotin deficiency which is linked to an overactive sebaceous gland. The sebaceous glands are found on the skin and the purpose of these glands is to release a greasy or fatty substance that is necessary for the protection of skin. Since the hormones of the mother are still circulating in the baby, these glands may often become overactive (but the glands will stabilise after time) and to this end, old skin that is released from the scalp will not fall off as the excessive fatty substance which is excreted by the glands will cause the old skin to remain, and this is another reason for the onset of cradle cap.


Treating cradle cap

Usually home treatments work well for the skin disorder and these home remedies simply involve washing the baby’s scalp with a mild baby shampoo every day at bath time. If a paediatrician has indeed confirmed that the cradle cap is as a result of a fungal infection, the doctor may recommend a topical cream or ointment to be applied directly to the baby’s scalp. However generally daily washing of the baby’s scalp is able to rectify cradle cap and within a few weeks, the sebaceous production will regulates itself and the patchy, yellowish and flaky scalp condition clears ups or become less and less noticeable.


Recommended shampoos and home remedies for cradle cap

Moms should never use adult-branded shampoos in an attempt to clear up cradle cap. There are many good, well-known baby-branded shampoos on the market, such as Elizabeth Anne’s products which have been trusted by generations of South African mothers. Natural home remedies include dabbing baby’s scalp with a little olive oil prior to washing and using a soft baby towel to loosen the flakes, and mixing up a bicarbonate soda paste with a bit of coconut oil and applied to the baby’s scalp before washing with regular baby shampoo. A number of moms have also recommended the use of apple cider vinegar prior to hair washing.

The Niz brand of baby’s shampoos and Epizone A is often recommended by paediatricians, and both brands have proven to be highly effective in controlling and eradicating cradle cap.


When cradle cap becomes serious!

Cradle cap requires professional medical intervention if at any stage the usually yellowish, flaky and patchy rash turns red and becomes thicker and it appears that the disorder or rash is causing the baby discomfort. If the crust of the cradle cap hardens and cracks and starts to bleed, the area will become a breeding ground for bacteria and this may lead to secondary infections. If moms notice that the growth or rash is spreading rapidly and signs of the crusty and patchy growth are spotted in a number of other parts of the body (besides the common areas, like the brows and lids), it may be time to consult a medical doctor.

If the baby’s cradle cap worsens and baby suffers from other conditions such as diarrhoea or vomiting, this could be an indication that the baby’s immune system is under attack – this is a warning sign that a medical professional needs to be consulted!

Under normal conditions, cradle cap clears up by using mild baby shampoo and with age. There are cases however, when babies suffer with cradle cap well into toddlerhood, however this is quite rare and usually by a baby’s first birthday, the patchy, yellowish and crusty skin of cradle cap has all but vanished.

 – Kathy

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