How To Handle Cradle Cap In a Toddler

You may be familiar with cradle cap in babies, but what about in toddlers?

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Although many parents think cradle cap is something that only occurs in babies, cradle cap can still occur in toddlers. That pesky white or yellowish build-up on the scalp that flakes up and seems to multiply overnight can be frustrating to deal with, especially when your baby is now a full-fledged toddler that can run away from you anytime you try to deal with it. But even if you have a little one on the move, you can mange cradle cap in toddlers with a few simple solutions. 

First of all, you should know that cradle cap is not dangerous or a sign that anything is wrong with your toddler. In most cases, cradle cap, even if it lasts through the toddler stage, will disappear on its own by age three. If you want to get really technical, cradle cap is no different than adult dandruff, so it makes sense why you could see it in a variety of ages. Cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene (your child is not “dirty” if he has it!) and it's also not contagious, so there's no reason why you can't get out in the world with a toddler who has cradle cap. 

toddler
Image via Unsplash

To deal with cradle crap in toddlers, you can follow many of the same suggestions as managing cradle cap in babies, since the cause and treatment is typically very similar: 

  • Wash your toddler's hair less often. It might seem like your toddler's hair is dirty and that's what is causing the cradle cap, but it's more likely that your toddler's hair and scalp is too dry. If you are bathing your toddler every night, try skipping every other night for washing her hair and see if that makes a difference. It will give the scalp a chance to re-establish some of the natural oils that are stripped away with washing. 
  • Use a mild baby shampoo. Again, you don't want to irritate the scalp and sometimes, using shampoo that is too harsh can cause build-up on the scalp or irritate the skin. Try an all-natural shampoo or a brand formulated for use with babies to ensure it's as gentle as possible. 
  • Loosen the flakes with a brush. You can could try a small plastic toothed comb, like the one babies get sent home with from the hospital or an exfoliating brush with bristles to loosen the flakes and scales from the scalp. It might be helpful to do this while your toddler is in the bath, so you can easily rinse the loose flakes away. 
  • Keep little hands away. True cradle cap shouldn't be itchy, but your toddler might still be tempted to pick or pull at her scalp–if you can, try to keep those curious little fingers away from her irritated scalp. Any open areas could be a site for infection to get in. Be sure to check her scalp for any signs of infection too, such as increased redness or pus. 

In general, cradle cap is not dangerous or contagious, and will resolve on its own. But some instances of cradle cap can be mistaken for what is actually eczema. If your toddler's cradle cap seems to be getting worse, is severely red and peeling, or is causing your toddler a lot of discomfort and appears to be itchy, it could be eczema.

And anytime the cradle cap seems to be getting worse or isn't responding to at-home treatment, you should have your little one checked out by a doctor. A prescription cream or special shampoo might be able to clear up the skin irritation for good. 

{ MORE: Are You Bathing Your Baby More Than You Should? }

Did your toddler experience cradle cap? What has helped you? 

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How To Handle Cradle Cap In a Toddler

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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