What is cradle cap
Cradle cap, medically known as infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis , is a common skin problem often seen in newborn infants, generally within 2 to 4 weeks of age. As the name suggests, the scaly skin patches characteristic to the condition first appear on the scalp, sometimes spreading to the forehead, eyebrows, cheeks, neck and behind the ears . It is a harmless condition and does not usually cause itching or any discomfort to your baby .
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What causes cradle cap in babies
Although the exact causes are still unknown, researches show the skin rash having no association with any allergic reaction or poor hygiene . Possible causes and risk factors include:
- Excessive sebum production by the oil (seborrheic) glands in the scalp
- Bacteria and fungus (a type of yeast named malassezia) growth in the sebum 
- Certain hormones passed on to the baby by the mother before birth that stimulates the oil glands in the baby [4, 5].
- Certain food intolerance (e.g. gluten, dairy products), common allergens or change in the atmosphere might lead to skin irritation and inflammation eventually causing cradle cap
A family history of skin allergies, such as eczema, may increase your baby’s risks of getting cradle cap. Having this infantile form of dermatitis might increase his chances of developing other types of seborrhoeic dermatitis (e.g. dandruff) when older .
What does cradle cap look like
The yellowish or brownish, greasy, flaking skin patches are the characteristic features of this skin issue in babies . The flaky skin may come off, leading to reddening of the affected area, causing hair loss in some cases .
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Make sure to call your pediatrician in case the yellow crusty skin patches spread to the face, causing pain or itchiness, abnormal redness of the affected skin, blistering, pus accumulation or bleeding as these symptoms may indicate certain serious skin infections [13, 9].
Is it normal for cradle cap to smell
In persistent cases, the excessive sebum production along with the fungus and bacteria growth may lead to an unpleasant sour smell that clings to your baby . Application of mild baby products may help minimize the yeast-like smell.
Is cradle cap contagious
Despite being believed to be a fungal condition, it is not contagious .
How to prevent cradle cap
The unknown causes make it difficult to avoid the skin problem. But, the following preventive measures may help to reduce its chances of occurrence:
- Shampooing every few days can help to prevent the fungus and bacteria growth 
- Gently rubbing the baby’s scalp daily with your fingers or using a soft bristled brush to improve the blood circulation and keep the skin healthy 
Cradle cap treatment
In most cases, no treatment is necessary as the flaking skin clears on its own within a few months, usually before your baby completes the first year of his life . In the meantime, it might help to keep track of any dry skin or allergy triggers like some food items or irritating detergents . Here are some safe measures to prevent the condition from worsening or leading to something more serious.
How to get rid of cradle cap
- Regular shampooing with a mild baby shampoo also helps with the treatment by removing the dry flaky skin. Your baby’s doctor may recommend using a medicated dandruff shampoo in persistent cases. It is a useful measure for taking care of the condition in babies with hair. Just make sure to wash off the soap properly to prevent any further skin problems .
- Gently brushing the scalp following shampoo with a soft comb to clear up the loose flaking patches helps prevent an accumulation of dead skin cells
- Hydrocortisone creams have been found useful for reducing the inflammation and redness associated with it 
- Using baby products, including shampoos, lotions and oils, specifically manufactured for management of dry scalp related skin issues
- Antibacterial creams (e.g. ketoconazole) and/or oral antibiotics may be prescribed to cure severe cases of cradle cap 
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Natural home remedies to treat cradle cap
- Coconut oil: Applying some coconut oil on the affected scalp area, leaving it on for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing off. It works as a moisturizer, helping in smoothening the skin and removing the skin crusts . Some people claim a mixture of coconut and grapeseed oil to be a more effective way to get rid of the problem.
- Almond or olive baby oil: Massaging your baby’s scalp gently every night with a baby oil (e.g. olive or almond oil) to help loosen the dry skin patches . A blend of certain essential oils in an olive oil base can also be useful for the purpose.
- Baking soda: Making a paste with one part of baking soda and one part of water or olive oil, applying it on the scalp, leaving it on for a couple of minutes. Then getting rid of the dry flaky substance with a soft brush to before washing it off with a gentle baby shampoo .
- Jojoba oil: Gently massaging jojoba oil on his scalp after a bath helps to reduce the sebum production and prevent the bacterial growth.
- Mineral oil: Rubbing some mild mineral oil on the scalp and keeping it covered with a wet warm washcloth for around an hour before shampoo to make any dry scaly skin to fall off.
- Overnight application of petroleum jelly (Vaseline), followed by shampoo in the morning
- Eating yogurt: For cradle cap in toddlers and older children, eating yoghurt (a natural probiotic) is believed to help fight the fungus and bacteria growth from within.
Make sure to wash off any oily substance applied for treatment to avoid a buildup of the scales . It is never advisable to pick at the rashes as this might lead to infection .
Cradle cap ICD-9 and ICD 10 Codes
ICD-9 Code – 690.11 
ICD-10 Code – L21.0 
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