Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is not an infection, it is not contagious, and it is not usually serious. It usually begins in the first weeks of life and disappears without leaving a scar.Seborrheic dermatitis in an infant is also called cradle cap. Generally, new parents are concerned when they see red and scaly patches of skin on their newborn’s scalp.

This is not usually something to be alarmed about, but what should and should not be done? We will talk about it below.

How is seborrheic dermatitis manifested in the infant?

It can occur in small areas, forming clusters stuck together, or cover the entire scalp. The affected areas may show some of the following signs:

  • Thick scales or crusts that form on the scalp, but also on the ears, eyelashes, eyebrows, nose, groin, neck or armpits as infrequent locations.
  • Oily or oily skin areas, often covered with scales.
  • Sticky white or yellowish scales that stick to the skin.

In infants with sensitive skin, dry skin, or eczema, seborrheic dermatitis can cause cracking and itching of the skin, with the consequent discharge of a translucent fluid. This cradle cap looks different for each infant.

Infants with seborrheic dermatitis rarely have mild redness on the skin that may or may not itch. Some also have hair loss, which grows back when the condition disappears.

What are these scabs due to?

The causes of this seborrheic dermatitis in infants are not known with certainty. It is believed that it could be caused by an excess in the production of sebum by the sebaceous glands of the skin, which could be stimulated by the hormonal changes that the mother undergoes during pregnancy.

Another theory suggests the existence of a fungus, called Malassezia, which has the ability to grow together with bacteria in the sebum of the skin. This could be another cause of this pathology.

Prognosis of seborrheic dermatitis in the infant

Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is not an infection, it is not contagious, and it is not usually serious. Nor is it an allergy caused by contact with something or poor hygiene. It usually begins in the first weeks of life and disappears slowly over a period of weeks or months, without leaving a mark or scar.

After this period, it may suddenly reappear later, but by following the guidelines mentioned below, it is possible to keep the condition under control.

A correct differential diagnosis must be made to rule out pathologies with similar clinical pictures, such as the following:

  • Psoriasis.
  • Fungal dermatitis.
  • Atopic dermatitis.
  • Some primary immunodeficiencies.
  • Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

When is medical attention necessary?

In general, it is easy to identify seborrheic dermatitis just by looking at it. In any case, it is advisable to consult your pediatrician in the following cases:

  • The first time you are going to undergo treatment for dermatitis.
  • If it causes excessive itching or hair loss.
  • If it is located in areas of the body where there is no hair.
  • When the condition worsens or spreads to more areas of the body.
  • In the event that it is a patient with an altered immune system who develops this condition.
  • If  infection is evident, there is discharge and the area looks hard, hot, or red.
  • When, in addition to having seborrhea, the infant finds it difficult to gain weight.

The treatment to be carried out

Most cases do not require treatment, but it is often interesting to detach the scales from the scalp and remove them. In those cases, the following steps should be followed:

  • Rinse hair frequently with a mild baby shampoo; that is to say, with acidic pH, hypoallergenic and without fragrances. Do not use those that are medicated and stronger, considered antiseborrheic, because they can be irritating.
  • Gently massage the scalp with a cotton ball using almond oil or Vaseline; avoid using olive oil. This is often beneficial as it softens the scales and allows them to slough off the scalp. Afterwards, rinse well because, if there is oil, it could stimulate the formation of scabs.
  • Use 100% cotton clothing washed with white bar soap.
  • In the most inflammatory, persistent or extensive cases, it is necessary to see a doctor. This will indicate to use specific shampoo or lotions for a few days to help in the treatment of dry skin and the formation of scales. The strongest forms of these formulations require a prescription.

Seborrheic dermatitis in the infant should not be of concern

Seborrheic dermatitis in the infant is a common manifestation. It is self-healing, although its treatment is usually resorted to for aesthetic reasons.

Before applying any type of product and especially if it spreads to other areas or shows signs of infection, we must make sure to consult our pediatrician.


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