Seborrheic Dermatitis in Children

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What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis (or dandruff) is a condition of seborrhea particularly seborrhea of the scalp and is very common in children, teenagers and adults alike. In young babies this presents as cradle cap and in all cases is recognizable by the white/yellowish skin that forms on the scalp and then flakes off.

Whilst usually found on the scalp Seborrheic Dermatitis can also be found on other oily parts of the body such as the face, eyebrows, eyelids, ears, creases of the nose, back of the neck, armpits or groin.

Seborrheic dermatitis does not indicate poor personal hygiene and it is not contagious, however it can be embarrassing; fortunately many over the counter remedies can help manage this harmless but undesirable condition. In more severe cases where the scalp becomes sore and risks infection a doctor may prescribe a mildly medicated shampoo.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis?

It is unknown what the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is, but it is thought to be linked to an overproduction of sebum (skin oil) and possibly a type of yeast (fungus) called malassezia which can grow in the sebum.

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis (flaking skin) may also be caused by other condition such as:

  • dry skin, such as the kind caused by cold, dry winter air
  • other skin conditions like eczema, acne, or psoriasis that can cause dead skin cells to build up on the scalp
  • shampooing too often or not often enough
  • using hair-care products or hair dye that leave a dry, flaky residue or having a bad reaction to these products.


Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis

  • dry, flaky skin that gets worse in cold weather
  • dry skin on the face, forehead, ears, or eyebrows
  • greasy or oily areas of skin on the scalp or other parts of the body
  • mild redness in the affected area
  • temporary hair loss

Treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Many cases of mild seborrheic dermatitis can be treated just by shampooing every day with a gentle shampoo. This will reduce oiliness and keep dead skin cells from building up.

When to Call the Doctor

Most cases of seborrheic dermatitis in your child won’t require a doctor’s visit and can be treated with special over the counter shampoos available without a prescription. Make sure with your pharmacist that the shampoo you choose is age appropriate for your child.

Sometimes the condition is particularly hard to treat, or the rash is coming from a completely different problem. If your child’s symptoms do not get better after a few weeks of using over the counter shampoo, or if the skin becomes red, swollen, or visibly loses fluid, you should contact your doctor. Also call if your child’s seborrhea gets worse, spreads to other parts of the body, or causes hair loss. Any sign of infection should also be professionally assessed and treated.

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