Cradle Cap in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Cradle cap is a common scalp problem among infants. It looks like yellow, scaly patches on the scalp. Cradle cap is also called seborrheic dermatitis.

Cradle cap is not connected with an illness. It is not harmful to your baby, and it does not spread to others. Cradle cap usually goes away by a baby's first birthday. If it bothers you, you can treat cradle cap with home care. If it does not bother you or your baby, it does not need treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Remember that cradle cap does not have to be treated. It almost always goes away on its own.
  • If cradle cap bothers you, you can wash the scaling off your baby's scalp:
    • Rub your baby's scalp with baby oil (or mineral oil, vegetable oil, or petroleum jelly) to help lift the crusts and loosen the scales. Put it on an hour before shampooing, or you can leave it on overnight.
    • When ready to shampoo, first get the scalp wet, then gently scrub the scalp with a soft-bristle brush (a soft toothbrush works well) for a few minutes to remove the scales. You can also try gently removing the scales with a fine-tooth comb. Do not brush too hard or put pressure on your baby's head.
    • Then, wash the scalp with baby shampoo, rinse well, and gently towel dry.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's skin reddens at the armpit, the groin, or other areas.
  • Your child's cradle cap continues after home treatment.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.