WE all imagine babies with perfect, smooth, glowing skin from their scalp to the soles of their feet, but unfortunately, all are not born that way.
Some babies develop temporary, harmless skin rashes and other conditions that parents have no control over. One common condition, according to paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith, is infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis, otherwise called “cradle cap”.
“Cradle cap is a common condition seen in babies. It can be described as crusty, greasy, scaly patches on the baby's scalp and may even appear in small patches on other areas of the skin such as the face — including the eyebrows, nose and ears. It may even be seen in the armpit area,” Dr Griffith said, adding that the flaky or scaly patch may be yellow or brownish in colour and the underlying skin, often red, is usually mistaken for dandruff.
It is important to note that the exact cause of the condition still remains unknown, and as a result Dr Griffith said the beliefs shared by parents that the relatively common condition is caused by poor hygiene or allergies is not true.
Instead, the paediatrician proposes that there is a high possibility cradle cap is hormonal, in line with the theory of experts who have investigated the condition.
“Cradle cap is thought to be as a result of excessive production of sebum or oil from the oil glands as a result of hormones produced by the mother in the latter part of pregnancy. It may also be associated with a fungal infection, but it is harmless — not contagious, not itchy except in severe cases, not caused by poor hygiene — and resolves over a few months,” Dr Griffith explained.
And since there is no concrete evidence of what the causative agent of the condition is, Dr Griffith said the next best thing that you can do for your child is to make sure you manage the condition as best as possible. She added that the condition will likely disappear in less than a year or as soon as the mother's hormones leaves the baby's bloodstream.
According to Dr Griffith, care involves:
1. Washing the baby's hair and scalp with a gentle shampoo. She explained that there are some shampoos that are developed specifically for cradle cap.
2. Apply oils such as olive before washing as this lifts the scale or flakes off the scalp, making them easier to wash away. The paediatrician noted that this is most effective if left on the scalp for a little while — about 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Don't ever force the crusts or flakes off the scalp because this can cause bleeding and pain to the infant. It also leads to further problems if it becomes infected.
4. A soft brush can be used to lift scales prior to washing; these can then be removed using a fine-tooth comb.
5. If you decide to use oils on the scalp to lift scales and flakes ensure you wash the scalp thoroughly, as oil left on the scalp can block pores and promote the build-up of flakes.
6. Hair and scalp should be dried properly at all times.
7. A medicated, anti-fungal shampoo may be prescribed by the baby's doctor if the condition is considered severe or persists and involves other areas of the body.
8. The child should be taken to the doctor so that a proper check-up can be done if the area becomes infected or inflamed. Additional treatment such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatory creams or lotion may be required to manage the condition.
Dr Griffith advised parents not to become daunted even if cradle cap returns after giving their baby a few days' break, because there is not much they can do to prevent this from happening. The condition simply has to run its course.