Scalp eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis, is a type of eczema that causes redness, itching, flaking and the development of oily, scaly patches on the scalp. Many factors may contribute to the development of eczema, including genetics, climate, stress, overall health and an overgrowth of or sensitivity to the yeast that normally reside on the scalp. The American Academy of Dermatology states that the immune system is likely involved in some way, as the condition is more common in those with HIV. Scalp eczema affects people of all races and ages and may spread to other areas of the body.
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Get rid of scalp eczema, or cradle cap, in infants by shampooing with a baby shampoo and then loosening scales with a soft-bristled brush. Your baby’s pediatrician may prescribe a topical antifungal cream or corticosteroid for severe cases or when scalp eczema spreads to other areas of the body.
Loosen and remove scales by applying warmed olive oil directly to the scalp. Leave the oil in place for one hour, and then wash it out with a mild shampoo. Brush away any remaining scales with a bristled brush.
Avoid taking long, hot showers or baths, as these may dry the skin, increase itching and worsen scalp eczema. The Nemours Foundation also suggests avoiding harsh shampoos and soaps and hair products containing alcohol or fragrances.
Use a dandruff shampoo to help clear scalp eczema in adults that fail to respond to frequent shampooing with regular products. The National Eczema Society recommends medicated shampoos containing tar or salicylic acid for most cases of seborrheic eczema. Shampoo containing ketoconazole may be useful for cases that do not improve after several weeks of shampooing with regular, medicated shampoos. Tar shampoos may discolor blonde, gray or white hair, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Keep your skin cool to prevent irritation and itching. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends limiting activities that make you sweaty and hot. Showering with lukewarm water immediately after exercising and applying moisturizing ointment to dry, itchy or irritated areas will help soothe the skin. Oil-based moisturizers are more effective at treating dry skin and eczema than water-based moisturizers.
Treat severe scalp inflammation with corticosteroid medications or topical immune-modifying drugs. These medications, especially when used in conjunction with oral antihistamines, are also effective at alleviating itching. The National Eczema Society states that topical steroids may be combined with salicylic acid or sulfur when scaling is significant to allow for better penetration of the steroid medication.
Take oral antibiotics to treat scalp infections, which are common in children with eczema, according to the Nemours Foundation. Minor infections may be treated with topical antibiotic ointments, while more severe infections require a course of oral antibiotics.
Undergo phototherapy to get rid of persistent scalp eczema. Some cases of eczema are associated with an exaggerated immune response, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, and exposure to specific wavelengths of UV light may have a calming affect on immune functioning. During phototherapy, the scalp is exposed to UV radiation for a specified period in order to reduce scalp inflammation. Exposure to sunlight may also be beneficial, but phototherapy is designed to deliver the correct UV wavelength for a controlled amount of time, thereby increasing the effectiveness of treatment while keeping side effects and risks as low as possible.
Visit an allergist for evaluation and treatment if your scalp eczema is associated with known or possible allergies. The American Academy of Dermatology states that allergies to dairy, shellfish and nuts are common causes of scalp eczema. Environmental allergies may also contribute to or worsen eczema flare-ups. Taking an antihistamine or other allergy medication may improve symptoms in these cases.
Call your doctor right away if you develop signs of an infection, such as fever, warmth and redness on the scalp, or blisters or pus-filled bumps on or near active eczema patches. The Nemours Foundation warns that children and teenagers with eczema are especially prone to skin infections. This is because children are more likely to scratch itchy areas, which can lead to breaks in the skin and bacterial contamination.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- American Academy of Dermatology: What is Eczema?
- American Academy of Dermatology: Seborrheic Dermatitis
- American Academy of Dermatology: Phototherapy: A Treatment Option for Some Types of Eczema
- National Eczema Society: Adult Seborrhoeic Eczema
- Nemours Foundation: Eczema
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Eczema: Tips on How to Care for Your Skin