Seborrheic dermatitis in infants (Cradle Cap)

Seborrheic dermatitis in infants causes bad dandruff (cradle cap). It sometimes causes a rash on other areas of skin. Treatment is usually not necessary, as it usually causes no discomfort and usually goes away by itself.

On this page

  • What is seborrheic dermatitis?
  • What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis in babies?
  • What is the treatment for seborrheic dermatitis in babies?
  • References

Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is a type of skin inflammation that affects the scalp and face. The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown. It is believed that babies who develop this condition can produce more sebum from the sebaceous glands of the skin. A type of germ called fungi Malassezia furfur (previously called Pityrosporum ovale) may also be involved. However, not just a simple skin infection and is not contagious (can not detect this condition from others). The fungal germ lives in the sebum (oil) from human skin and some babies may react somehow the germ that causes inflammation of the skin.

Many babies have a mild form of the disease in the first six months of life, but usually goes away by itself after a few months. In most children, has been approved by the age of 12-24 months. It usually occurs in older children. Some teens and adults have a related condition that causes bad dandruff and rash. (See separate leaflet called 'Seborrhoeic Dermatitis of adults.)

Symptoms include:

  • Cradle cap. These are areas of fat, yellow spots, scaly patches on the scalp. In some cases, a thick scaly layer covering the entire scalp. Over time, the balance may become flaky and rub off easily. The condition is not usually itchy and, in many cases, the baby is not aware of any problems or discomfort.
  • Rash. Besides cradle cap, some affected infants develop mild red rash on the eyebrows, on the skin near the nose or in the folds of skin such as the neck, behind the ears, under the arms or behind knees.

The condition usually develops around three months of age, but can develop faster. It usually lasts a few weeks or months, and then leaves.

For a list of websites that contain pictures of skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis in infants (cradle cap), see www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/1097/

Treatment is usually not necessary because the disease is usually mild, not severe, and usually causes no discomfort to the baby. The condition usually disappears by itself over time. However, the appearance of the scalp can be improved by daily washing with baby shampoo followed by gentle brushing with a soft brush to loosen scales. Alternatively, soften the scales with baby oil first, followed by gentle brushing, then wash with baby shampoo.

If necessary, a medicated shampoo or an antifungal cream like ketoconazole cream can be prescribed by your doctor. Usually the rash is cleared. Sometimes, if the inflammation is more severe, a mild steroid cream may be prescribed by your doctor.