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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
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Cradle Cap


Cradle cap consists of oily, yellow scales on the scalp. It begins in the first weeks of life and is probably caused by adult hormones that crossed the placenta before birth. Without treatment it can last for months; with treatment it usually is cleared up in a few weeks.


  1. Antidandruff shampoo

    Buy an antidandruff shampoo (nonprescription) at the drugstore. Wash your baby's hair with it once a day. While the hair is lathered, massage your baby's scalp with a soft brush or rough washcloth. Don't worry about hurting the soft spot. Once the cradle cap has cleared up, use a regular shampoo twice a week.

  2. Softening thick crusts

    If your child's scalp is very crusty, put some baby oil or olive oil on the scalp 1 hour before washing to soften the crust. Wash all the oil off, however, or it may worsen the cradle cap.

  3. Resistant cases of cradle cap

    If the rash is very red and irritated, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (nonprescription) three times a day for 7 days.


  • The cradle cap lasts more than 2 weeks with treatment.
  • The rash spreads beyond the scalp.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems