It is common among babies to develop baby eczema in the head or better known as seborrheic dermatitis or often referred to as “cradle cap”. But just like any other type of eczema, there is a proper way to manage and treat such conditions. That is why it is important for parents and guardians to be knowledgeable and to really know to handle baby eczema in head.
Normally, whenever we see a cradle cap on babies, we just let it stay as it is and allow it to heal in its own time. Well, there is totally nothing wrong with that – but the matter changes when it causes your baby to become fussy and irritable.
When that happens, it should serve as your cue that you are dealing with serious baby eczema in head or seborrheic dermatitis condition. Thus, you better bring your baby immediately to his or her doctor for properly diagnosing and medication, if necessary.
Before we move on, we just want to say that as parents, we are responsible for our children. While it is okay to think your baby is fine and wait for more symptoms to come out, sometimes, it is better to act fast. Meaning, as soon as you see baby eczema in head, you immediately bring your baby to the doctor – because seriously, it is unacceptable to be relaxed when dealing with baby health issues.
Anyway, we think by now you already have an idea of what we are going to talk about today. Yes, we will be talking about seborrheic dermatitis or what we commonly know as baby eczema in head or “cradle cap”.
We are glad that you are here because that means, you want to be informed. You want to know more about this skin condition, and of course, how to properly deal with it, which is very important especially among parents.
So, let’s start?
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Overview
As we earlier mentioned, seborrheic dermatitis or baby eczema in the head is a very common skin disease that just like any form of eczema, it causes a rash.
Seborrheic comes from the root word seborrhea, which refers to “an excessive and abnormal discharge from sebaceous glands,” which are microscopic exocrine glands in the skin that are responsible for secreting oily or waxy matter. Dermatitis, on the other hand, refers to the skin condition wherein it becomes red, sore, and/or inflamed.
Seborrheic dermatitis mainly affects the scalp of the person affected by this condition. Although it normally appears in reddish color, it may also be swollen and greasy, and/or a white or yellowish crusty scale may also appear on the surface of the affected skin.
Typically, one or more rashes may appear on the body of the person affected by it. It may also tend to become itchy sometimes, which makes babies become more irritable and fussy.
Usually, baby eczema in head or seborrheic dermatitis go away on its own after a few months. That is why most parents are not really that concerned whenever they see their babies with cradle cap. However, there are also instances when it goes away and then reappears later. Thus, continuous management and treatment may be required.
Here’s the thing, whenever we hear about cradle cap or seborrheic dermatitis, the first thing that comes to mind is that it appears on the head. But what we hardly know is, it may also appear in babies’ diaper area! Oftentimes, when it develops in the diaper area, we usually have mistaken it for diaper rash. Apart from the diaper area, it may also appear in other oily areas of the body like the face, sides of the nose, ears, eyebrows, eyelids, and chest.
Remember what we said earlier? When it comes to babies, it is very important not to guess or take things lightly, because like in this case, you never know if it is still a usual diaper rash or something else.
While seborrheic dermatitis on babies permanently disappears between 6 months and 1 year old, seborrheic dermatitis in adults is long-lasting, which means you have to deal with it for the rest of your life.
Like any other types of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups are usually triggered by stress, cold and dry weather or temperature, etc. But, just like any other eczema, flare-ups can be reduced or managed.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Symptoms
While it is common to appear on the baby’s scalp area, as mentioned earlier, seborrheic dermatitis may also appear in other parts of the body like the nose area and the eyelids.
If you are suspecting that your baby has baby eczema in head, check if the following symptoms exist in his or her scalp or body:
- Yellow crust
- Pink patches connecting with the red skin
- Red skin with white or yellow flakes on top
- Swollen areas of skin
Babies are normally not bothered by these symptoms unless it becomes itchy. However, in cases of severe seborrheic dermatitis, you have to look out for the following signs and symptoms:
- High fever
- Bad smell
- Weeping fluid
If any of these is present in your baby’s skin, you better have your baby checked by the doctor immediately as these are signs of possible infection.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Causes and Triggers
When it comes to cradle cap or baby eczema in head, experts say that too much skin oil or sebum in the oil glands and hair follicles greatly affects the occurrence of the said skin condition. Malassezia, a type of yeast that can be found on the skin may also cause seborrheic dermatitis to develop.
However, generally, what causes eczema is still unknown. Precisely the reason also behind why there is no existing medication or treatment that is specific to curing eczema. Up to this day, managing eczema is just made possible by managing the symptoms.
Experts believe that a person’s combination of genes is a big factor. In fact, researchers say that when one of the parents has a medical history of eczema or allergies, the more likely it is for the kid to develop eczema or allergy, too. By the way, allergies are also seen as one major factor why flare-ups occur.
Furthermore, Apart from the person’s genes and allergies, hormonal changes, certain illnesses, as well as stress may also trigger seborrheic dermatitis symptoms to come out. There are also certain types of medications that make people more prone to seborrheic dermatitis, which include:
- skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, or acne
- food and environmental allergies
- Irritants like chemicals, metal, etc.
- hay fever
- other types of eczema
- for adults, certain diseases that weaken the body’s immune system or nervous system (such as HIV and Parkinson’s disease) may also trigger scalp eczema
Apart from these, here are a few more risk factors connected to the cause of seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups:
- lack of sleep
- cold and/or dry weather
- dry skin
- greasy hair
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Diagnosis
Usually, health experts diagnose cradle cap or seborrheic dermatitis by just looking at the affected area of the skin. They also ask a few questions to the parents of the child. Questions include the medical history of the child and the parents, what was the last food the baby took, if breasted, the food that the mommy ate, any allergies or existing health conditions, etc.
It is a mandatory thing that doctors do just to rule out other possible skin conditions.
As with a specific test that helps diagnose seborrheic dermatitis, there really no such thing. This is because the fungus and yeasts that triggers seborrheic dermatitis to develop are naturally present in people’s scalp.
In cases when the doctor is unable to rule out the person’s case, he or she may refer you to specialized doctors like dermatologists or allergists. If this happens, the doctor may do a skin scraping to see if a fungal infection is also present in the skin.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Treatments
Baby eczema in the head or seborrheic dermatitis usually disappears on its own after a few months. While waiting for that to happen, you may want to release and remove the scales on your baby’s scalp by doing the following:
- Wash your baby’s hair once a day. Use mild, tear-free baby shampoo.
- Remove the scales gently using a soft toothbrush or baby hairbrush.
In the case when the scales do not loosen up easily, you may follow the below instructions:
- Wash your baby’s hair once a day. Use mild, tear-free baby shampoo.
- Apply a very small amount of petroleum jelly or mineral oil to the scalp. You may apply it directly or use cotton balls.
- Let the oil soak in the scales and wait for a few minutes, or sometimes even hours.
- Remove the scales gently using a soft toothbrush or baby hairbrush.
- Rinse off the scalp using a mild shampoo.
It is highly advised by doctors to shampoo your baby’s scalp regularly. But in some cases when regular shampooing does not help, your pediatrician may recommend the application of mild steroid cream or an antifungal shampoo instead.
Some doctors may prescribe using shampoos that contain the following ingredients:
- zinc pyrithione
- salicylic acid
- selenium sulfide
- coal tar
These ingredients are said to be very helpful in dealing with baby eczema in head or seborrheic dermatitis.
With regards to seborrheic dermatitis that appears on other parts of the body, the application of mild steroid cream or an antifungal cream may be prescribed by the doctor. Usually, these creams contain corticosteroids or coal tar, which effectively calms irritation and stops flaking on the affected skin area.
For severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis, a mild corticosteroid may be prescribed, which helps ease out inflammation. A topical corticosteroid may also be prescribed to help treat an active flare-up. However, it should be noted that corticosteroids are not suitable to be used for long periods of time. So, avoid using it more than what the doctor prescribed.
Now, please do note that while there are available over-the-counter steroids or antifungal creams, it is best to always check with your doctor first before applying anything on your baby’s skin. Remember, you are dealing with a little human who requires extra tender, loving, care.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Natural and Home Remedies
Although no studies could support this claim yet, some people believed that natural remedies have helped relieve symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. Here are some of what people believed are effective natural topical treatments:
- Aloe Vera Gel – Must be applied to the affected area. You may use either a product or a freshly cut leaf of the plant.
- Tea tree oil – You may use either pure tea tree oil or the one in shampoo form, and use it on the affected area. However, make sure that your baby is not allergic to it as some studies show that the oil may trigger an allergic reaction.
- Olive Oil – May also be applied to the affected area.
In addition, below are some dietary supplements, which some people have also found beneficial:
- fish oil supplement
- vitamins A, D, B
In addition, you may also follow below self-care tips:
– Apply mineral oil or olive oil to the scalp and leave it for a couple of hours. Gently brush off and wash your scalp after.
– Wash regularly. Make sure that you rinse soap or shampoo completely from your baby’s body and scalp. Gently pat dry, and then, immediately use a moisturizer on your baby’s skin after washing or bathing.
– Avoid skin or hair products that contain alcohol as it may cause a flare-up.
– Regularly wash your baby’s scalp using a non-medicated shampoo. Ideally, once a day.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Prevention
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Well, we cannot agree more. While it is really hard to prevent seborrheic dermatitis because, like any other type of eczema, its root cause is unknown (although experts say it has something to do with sebaceous glands), there are ways, however, that helps prevent flare-ups from occurring.
First and foremost, to help prevent flare-ups is by reducing stress, if not totally get rid of it. Yes, babies get stressed too. So, you better keep them away from stressful situations.
Second, avoid exposing your baby to suspected irritants. Irritants like chemicals, metal, harsh soap, hair dye, use of hot water, etc. affect people in different ways. So, as much as possible, do not expose your baby to such elements.
Third, keeping your baby’s scalp clean will help a lot to keep flare-ups away. So, always make it a point to clean your baby’s scalp regularly by using lukewarm water and shampoo.
Fourth, speaking of shampoo, make sure to use a gentle, hypoallergenic, and tear-free shampoo. We mentioned earlier the ideal shampoo that you must use on your baby, so you may refer to that, or better yet, ask your doctor’s recommendation. Again, it depends on the severity of the case, so you better make sure.
Lastly, keep your baby away from heat or hot places or areas. Like any other form of eczema, baby eczema in the head may also occur when your baby is exposed to sun or other hot places. Heat causes sweating, and sweating is one of the enemies of people with eczema. It causes flare-ups.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Additional Information
Just like any other skin condition, when not treated properly or when you don’t mind the symptoms at all, the greater you put yourself or the other person at risk.
In some cases, seborrheic dermatitis in the diaper area or in the skin folds can get infected. But how do you know if your baby’s symptoms are leading to infection? Well, you better check and see if the following exists:
– The affected skin looks red.
– It starts to drain fluid.
– It feels warm.
When these or even just one of these signs exist, immediately see your doctor for proper diagnosis and medication. Never think twice or it might get worse.
Normally, seborrheic dermatitis or baby eczema in head gets better or permanently disappears when the baby reaches between six and twelve months. However, there is a good chance that seborrheic dermatitis may come back when the child reaches the puberty age. When it does, seborrheic dermatitis is usually referred to as dandruff.
Compared to other types of eczema, we have to say that seborrheic dermatitis is the easiest and very manageable type of dermatitis. In fact, all you have to do is to follow a very simple scalp regimen to manage seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups.
But then again, even if it sounds or looks simple when it comes to babies, we always have to be extra careful and extra cautious. Babies, in general, are very delicate. And their skin? It is very sensitive.
As much as possible, parents and guardians must always keep the baby protected from any harmful irritants or even allergens to avoid flare-ups.
As parents and guardians, we are held liable in keeping our babies healthy and happy. So, the next time you check your baby’s skin and you see something unusual and you suspect it is baby eczema in head, do not think twice. Immediately bring him or her to the doctor for proper diagnosis and if necessary, medication, too.