Safe Home Remedies for a Child's Itchy Scalp

Father and daughter
A father combing his daughter's hair at home. (Image: Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images)

A child may develop an itchy scalp for a number of reasons, from cradle cap to shampoo that irritates to skin conditions such as eczema. Itchy scalp can pose a minor irritation, or if left untreated, it can lead to more serious issues such as a painful rash or open sores. Some issues can be treated with home remedies, but a doctor will need to evaluate persistent or severe itching or rash.

Change Bathing Routine

Sometimes, a child can get an itchy scalp from irritation during bath time. Washing the hair every day or using hot water can both cause irritation. Dr. Jim Sears says that it is only necessary to wash kids' hair about once a week and that more frequent washing can dry out the scalp, causing it to become itchy. When a child's hair get messy before it's time to wash, rinse the hair with lukewarm water.

Changing Shampoos

Many shampoos have harsh chemical ingredients that can dry the scalp -- even those designed for children. If children suffer from itchy scalp, parents can try switching to a shampoo that is specially designed for sensitive skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing shampoos that are free of fragrances and other additives. Parents should look for shampoo that is specially formulated for children since they have more sensitive skin than adults and some shampoos that may be gentle on adults may be irritating to children.

Gentle Hair Care

Parents can help to minimize irritation to the scalp by practicing gentle hair care. Instead of rubbing a towel over the hair to dry it or using a blow dryer, parents should pat the hair dry or let it air dry. They can schedule some quiet play time or story time after bath to let the hair dry before bed. Using a soft, bristled brush can also be gentler on the scalp than plastic or hard-bristled brushes.

Moisturize the Scalp

If the skin on the scalp has become irritated, a good moisturizer can be soothing and relieve itching. Olive oil and baby oil are both good choices for children since they are natural and won't irritate the surrounding area. If there are scabs or crusty areas on the scalp, parents can rub a little of the oil into the area to soften them. The oil must be rinsed off completely with shampoo after a few minutes, or it can lead to a rash.

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