A red raised skin rash on your baby’s scalp can be alarming for parents, especially if you don’t know the cause. In most cases, the rash is a harmless condition called seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap. Tinea capitis and eczema can also cause this type of rash. Consult with your doctor about your baby’s skin changes for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Seborrheic dermatitis, tinea capitis and eczema are similar in their appearance if they appear on your baby’s scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis causes a thick crust to appear on your baby’s scalp. Yellowish colored scales also appear in greasy areas of the scalp. Mild redness and itching may be present. Tinea capitis will irritate the skin of your baby’s scalp causing swelling, sores and redness. Eczema usually appears during the first year of life as tiny red bumps that ooze and crust. The scalp may be itchy and is a common area for eczema. If your baby scratches his scalp, it can worsen the scalp rash.
The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, but hormones that are passed from the mother to the baby before birth could cause the condition. Other possible causes of seborrheic dermatitis are excess skin oil and irritation from a fungus called malessizia. Tinea capitis is known as ringworm of the scalp, but ringworm does not cause the condition. A fungus called dermatophyte causes tinea capitis and poor hygiene, being African or being in daycare increases your baby’s risk of this fungus. The cause of eczema is unknown, but it seems to occur in infants with immediate family members that have eczema, asthma or allergies. Certain triggers can irritate eczema, such as dry skin, scented soaps, long baths and winter air.
Wash your baby’s scalp each day with a gentle shampoo to remove scales from seborrheic dermatitis. Use a soft brush to loosen the scales. Apply mineral oil to the scalp and wrap warm, wet wash clothes to the scalp an hour before shampooing. If this does not work, seborrheic dermatitis usually clears on its own. Tinea capitis is treated with antifungal medications. You can help with the eczema on your baby’s scalp by giving him cool, short baths instead of long, hot baths. Use a mild fragrance free soap to wash your baby’s hair and then pat the area dry. Apply a liberal amount of moisturizer to prevent overdrying of the scalp.
Seborrheic dermatitis is difficult to prevent since it has nothing to do with hygiene and it usually clears on its own within a few months. Shampooing your baby’s hair every few days can sometimes help prevent seborrheic dermatitis from occurring. Tinea capitis can be prevented by shampooing your baby’s hair regularly and not sharing combs. If someone in your home is infected with tinea capitis, wash towels, clothes and shared items promptly. If your pet has a rash, make an appointment with a vet since your pet can spread tinea capitis. Eczema cannot be prevented, but you can avoid irritating the skin by keeping it moisturized and avoiding triggers that irritate your baby’s skin. Also, have your baby wear mittens to keep him from scratching his scalp.