How to treat childhood seborrheic dermatitis

What is childhood seborrheic dermatitis?

It is an erythematous reaction that mainly affects areas vulnerable to seborrhea. Such as the scalp, face, the back of ​​the ears, central chest area, armpits and groins. It’s characterized by formations with yellowish scales or scabs, with a greasy appearance.

It usually appears in during lactation, between second and ninth week of a baby’s life. It affects around 12% of newborns, and approximately 50% of babies experience it before the fifth week. As a general rule it disappears spontaneously before 8 or 10 months, not reappearing again until puberty starts. There is no evidence to show that babies who have had it. Are predisposed to suffer
again as adults.

Let’s see its causes, symptoms and treatments below.

What is the cause?

The cause or causes for seborrheic dermatitis are unknown. It is believed that there is a genetic predisposition and there are a number of factors involved in its development:

  • Alteration in functioning of the sebaceous glands.
  • Certain fungi, such as Malassezia Globosa (Pityrosporum ovale).
  • Relationship with atopic dermatitis.

What are the symptoms?

As a general rule it affects the scalp, where a series of flaky, yellowish, greasy plaques are formed, appearing in various shapes and sizes, on top of reddened skin.

From the fourth week since the first plates appear, it usually extends to the forehead, ears, middle of the face, upper part of the back and it even affects other areas such as chest, armpits or groins. In the areas where it folds, we can see plates with a reddish color and scales around them, with well-defined edges. This opens a possibility to have wet red plates, with greasy scales sticking to them.

Apart from flaky plaques, sometimes a weak itch may appear. Let’s see what we can do about it and what treatments could we use.

What can you do?

This condition usually has a good prognosis, and symptoms disappear on several weeksor months. To alleviate any possible discomfort that the newborn may be on, we can follow these recommendations:

  • The child will be more comfortable if any clothing that covers the scalp is removed or loosened.
  • In many cases, it is solved only with the use of a mild non-medicated shampoo.
  • If the scales are abundant or are very adherent, we will use liquid paraffin, olive oil or glycerin.


milky scab

What’s the treatment for this?

The treatment for childhood seborrheic dermatitis never should be aggressive if you want a good progress with a spontaneous healing tendency. Topical corticosteroids (applied directly on the skin) with a low strength level (hydrocortisone, etc.) will be used. Which should only be changed to more potent corticosteroids if a favorable response is not obtained.

Scalp lesions (milk crust) can be treated with keratolytic (salicylic acid) to 4 or 5% in petrolatum, which achieves peeling in a short time. Low-level corticosteroid lotions are then useful until complete control of the process. Shampoos that contain sulfur, zinc pyrithione or tars are also frequently used.

In cases where there’s a bigger infection by fungi or bacteria, antifungals or antibiotics need to be applied in addition to all treatments mentioned above. In cases where lesions become intense or appear in a generalized manner. It’s advisable that the child has to be seen by a dermatologist.

Now we’l give you more detailed information on seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp or cradle cap.

Cradle cap

If your baby has cradle cap you can follow these instructions to relieve your symptoms:

Massage your baby’s scalp gently with your fingers, or with a soft brush to loosen scales or get them off, looking to improve circulation on the scalp.

Try to bathe your baby every day, using a mild shampoo while the scales keep appearing. As the scales tend to disappear, reduce your shampoo use to only 2 or 3 times a week. Make sure to rinse all the soap very well by using plenty of water.

Brush your child’s hair with a soft, clean brush after each wash, and several times during the day, so that the scales do not caulk.

• If the scales do not loosen or wash off easily, you can apply a little mineral oil to the baby’s scalp, wrapping his head on warm, damp cloths, until an hour before shampooing. Then, use the shampoo as we have indicated above. Remember that babies lose a lot of heat through their scalp. Make sure that the fabrics you use to wrap his head don’t get too cold. If this happens, wet them again with warm water and a little more oil.

If the scales become a major problem or the baby is very uncomfortable or restless and tries to scratch his head, check with your doctor. You can get prescription for cream or lotion to apply on the scalp several times a day, this way you will be able to relieve any discomfort caused by cradle cap. Among the best known lotions, creams and shampoos, we have: Mustela® Stelaker®, Sebacur Pediátrico Champú, A-Derma primalba soapy cradle cap shampoo, Babé Pediatric cradle cap shampoo o Mitosyl Cradle Cap Gel.


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