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Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a type of skin inflammation or dermatitis of the scalp that is widespread during childhood. Generally this skin disorder occurs during the first month of an infant's life, but it may happen even between the period of birth and first 12 months of a newborn. However, the disease disappears when the baby is about eight months to one year old. Although the skin inflammation is called cradle cap and usually appears on the scalp, it can emerge even on the eyelids, eyebrows, on both sides of the nose and at the back of the ears.

The common symptoms of cradle cap include substantial yellowish slippery scales that are a result of the intense sebaceous glands secreting a wax-like yellowish sebum or oil. As the sebum or oil secreted by these glands dry up and come off, they block the channels or ducts. This, in turn, prompts the sebaceous glands to immediately secrete all the more oil in an effort to push out the obstacles and clear the conduits to reach the exterior. Consequently, this results in the formation of all the more deep and intense blockades and further chunky yellowish and slippery flakes that turn into a yellowish coating when it dries up. While it may appear that the yellowish crust may cause an itching sensation, actually it does not.

It is not that cradle cap can happen if the baby is kept unclean. Contrary to this belief, this condition may occur even if one bathes and cleans his or her child everyday. Generally, people are of the view that the skin and skull of a newborn is delicate or they may seem to be fragile, in reality they are reasonably tough and able to endure comprehensive bathing. In effect, massaging the skin and scalp of a baby may actually not help in getting rid of the surplus oil or sebum secreted by the sebaceous glands.

It is important to note that in case your baby is enduring cradle cap, you should be extremely cautious in taking care of the wounds. As in the instance of any other skin problems, cradle cap may also result in bacterial or fungal contagions. Hence, you need to be extra careful in taking care of your baby if he or she has developed this skin inflammation.

Although scientists are yet to ascertain what actually causes cradle cap, it is definitely not owing to any allergy, contagion or unhygienic condition. Hence, it is believed that the skin inflammation is a result of overcharged sebaceous glands present in the skin of the infants since their mother's hormones continue to circulate in their body. The sebaceous glands in the skin of the newborns, which are actually the old cells from the mother, continue to produce and secrete the oily substance that binds to the scalp when they desiccate and later drop off as flakes. In addition, many scientists believe that cradle cap may be in some way related to skin yeasts, earlier known as Pityrosporum ovale and now rechristened as Malassezia furfur. On the other hand, nutritionists are of the view that cradle cap is a result of the newborn's undeveloped digestive system which is not capable of absorbing enough biotin and additional vitamins of the B-complex group.

Cautionary indications

Mild case of cradle cap can easily be treated with medications prepared at home. However, you need to contact your physician for medical intervention if the condition of the yellowish crust formed on the scalp condenses, becomes reddish, results in irritation and begins to spread to new areas, the symptoms are visible in other parts of the body or the infant develops an obstinate rash while using diapers. In fact, fungal infection, like tinea capitis, and scabies are also capable of imitating cradle cap. Sometimes, the skin inflammation cradle cap is associated to the malfunctioning of the immune system. Also consult a physician in case the newborn is not keeping well and is enduring other problems, such as diarrhea.

Diagnosis

Normally, physicians assure the parents whose babies are suffering from cradle cap that the condition will disappear as the infant grows older. Nevertheless, several researches have demonstrated that the medical condition usually refuses clear up in the infants during their toddler years and rarely develops when they are grown up. What is significant that cradle cap has a tendency to reappear during the adolescence period and continue till an individual matures into an adult. Findings of a research conducted by scientists in Australia have shown that approximately 15 per cent of the children who were earlier diagnosed of having cradle cap continued to suffer from eczema even a decade afterwards. Occasionally, cradle cap may also change into atopic dermatitis (inflammation of the skin distinguished by extreme itching), but it seldom ends up being wrongly diagnosed as psoriasis (a widespread chronic, inflammatory skin disorder distinguished by scaly patches).

Supplements and herbs

Since the skin of an infant's scalp is very dry, it needs to be moistened by massaging the scalp alternatively with vitamin E oil and calendula lotion. One may also use almond oil for the purpose as a substitute of vitamin E oil and calendula ointment. After the message the oil should be allowed to stay on the baby's scalp for approximately 15 minutes. Later, wash the scalp with shampoo and use a fine toothed comb gently to remove the slackened off scales. It is important to note that vitamin E oil as well as calendula lotion are effective in alleviating irritation of the skin as well as moistening the scalp. In addition, they are also useful in curing lesions on the scalp caused by cradle cap.

Additional things you may do

In most cases, home remedies seem to be sufficient to cure cradle cap in newborns. And it is fine if you do the following things to keep your baby clean and free from any type of bacterial or fungal contagions.

  • Massage the scalp of your baby with mineral oil, baby oil or any petroleum jelly about an hour before applying shampoo to his or her scalp. Rubbing mineral oil, baby oil or petroleum jelly on the baby's scalp will facilitate in removing the crusts as well as slacking off the scales or flakes.
  • Before you begin shampooing the baby's scalp, it is essential to first wet the scalp and subsequently scrub the scalp tenderly with the help of a supple hairy brush or alternately a soft toothbrush for some minutes as this will help in getting rid of the scales formed on the scalp. Additionally, one may also use a fine toothed comb to remove the scales from the baby's scalp.
  • When the scrubbing process is over, shampoo the scalp with any baby product, wash the scalp properly and use a towel to dry the scalp tenderly.

Scalp, at the back of the ears and eyebrows

Many people would advise you to apply mineral oil or vegetable oil on the baby's scalp and allow it to absorb the oily substance all through the night or may be even lesser period of time to get rid of the scales caused by cradle cap. However, this idea may not be right as it contradicts the fact that Malassezia yeasts flourish well in oily conditions. It is important to brush away the scales that have been made tender following the application of oil tenderly with a supple brush, fine toothed comb, cloth or soft toothbrush. If the process is not done in a very careful and tender manner, the condition may deteriorate and result in a passing baldness. Actually, scientists are yet to undertake any research on the recommendations mentioned above.

With a view to cure their baby's cradle cap, many parents also apply generous amounts of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, on the baby's scalp and allow it to remain for the entire night. Incidentally, this is a very common and preferred home remedy for healing cradle cap. Application of petroleum jelly overnight makes the scales tender and they either drop off during the night itself or if they do not, they can be removed in the morning using a soft bristle brush or fine toothed comb.

Although many people recommend using shampoo to clean the scalp of babies enduring cradle cap, it may be noted that there is a general difference of opinion on the functioning of shampoos in this case. Many are of the view that shampooing too often may be harmful, while there are others who suggest that using shampoos is effective in clearing the scales caused by cradle cap from the scalp. Many people recommend using 'mild' baby shampoos for washing the scalp, but none have precisely stated what they denote by the term 'mild' in this case. It may be mentioned here that even shampoos meant for babies enclose perfumes, detergent surfactants (agents that lessen surface tension of liquids), quaternium-15 and additional eczemagenics that cause irritations as active ingredients. Since no researches have been conducted on this subject, it would be wise to use shampoos that contain the minimum amount of probably irritants to wash the scalps of babies enduring cradle cap.

It is not advisable to use keratolytic or dandruff shampoos - products containing selenium, sulfur, zinc pyrithione or salicylic acid, to wash the scalp of babies having cradle cap as these products not only cause eye irritation, but also deteriorates the skin inflammation. While many physicians occasionally prescribe such product to treat stubborn cases of cradle cap, most people actually warn against their use or use of medicated shampoos in infants as they may result in systemic absorption. In fact, shampoos meant for eradicating dandruff usually enclose sodium lauryl sulfate as a major ingredient that is known to cause irritation of the skin.

At times, people have also used formulations made with steroid and tar to cure cradle cap, but using these preparations is known to have considerable disadvantages. In fact, immunomodulators, such as Protopic (tacrolimus) and Elidel (pimecrolimus) have not been sanctioned for use in infants below the age of two years. Presently, ketoconazole shampoos and creams seem to be the most preferred substances in the medicinal therapy for restrained to acute cases of cradle cap. Studies conducted thus far hint that using this anti-fungal medicine do not result in its absorption in the bloodstream. However, it is regrettable that presently ketoconazole shampoo is manufactured with several dubious substances that are likely to cause skin irritation and allergies. In such a situation, it appears to be an excellent idea to use preparations made by a compounding pharmacy.

Several studies have found that administering biotin injections either to the baby or the breastfeeding mother have helped to clear cradle cap quickly as well as completely. Another study found that administering vitamin B-complex injections also proved to be effective in healing cradle cap. If you are mulling over taking injections to cure cradle cap, it is advisable that you take the injection directly into the vein and not into the muscles. However, recently when scientists used a small dosage of oral biotin to heal cradle cap in a clinical trial, it did not prove to be an effective medication and, hence several conventional means of treatment for cradle cap have ruled out using biotin as an effective supplement to heal the condition. Nonetheless, this conception is wrong. There are a number of physicians who have a preference for oral supplementation containing liquid biotin. All said and done, there is a need for a properly planned research on the subject to ensure the efficacy of a dose of the oral supplementation, in case there is one, as well as the impact of biotin/B-complex injections in a bigger model. It would certainly be worthwhile trying biotin as this vitamin is not only safe for use, but also does not enclose any identified toxic substance.

Finding of a study conducted on the subject by Swedish scientists hinted that rubbing the scalp of babies with cradle cap with little quantities of borage oil two times every day yielded positive results. In addition to these therapies, other home remedies suggested in different unconventional sources as well as parent forums including herbal washes with chamomile or burdock, shampoo prepared from tea tree oil and aloe gel. As applying aloe or tea tree oil may prove to be sensitive, therapies with these herbs should be stopped immediately in case you notice any deterioration in the baby's condition. Nevertheless, it needs to be noted that cradle cap treatment with both aloe gel and tea tree oil have been found to be effective. During medical trials they were also found to be safe for use.

Eyelids

The very common medical advice on cleaning a baby's scalp to get rid of the scales caused by cradle cap would include suggesting that one ought to use a watered down shampoo using a cotton pad. The amount of diluted shampoo that may be used to wash an infant's scalp may vary from adding a number of drops of the shampoo to half cup of warm water to a blend of equal amounts of water and shampoo. However, it needs to be noted that thus far no research has been undertaken to ascertain either the effectiveness of safety of this kind of therapy. However, a study conducted on adults to compare the efficacy of soap and baby shampoo to commercially available eyelid scrubs noted that most of the patients certainly did not desire putting soap or shampoo on their eyelids as both have a stinging effect on the eyes. Another alternative method is to use baking soda, in the proportion of one teaspoonful of baking soda in a cup of steamed water. This mode of treatment was found to be tolerable as well as accepted nicely by most of the adults. In addition, a wash with warm water that has been boiled earlier is also likely to be effective.

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