I am just back from an evening call night in the office and it was like dermatology clinic! But the funniest thing was that 4 of the children I examined, all of different ages, had the same thing: Lip Lickers Dermatitis.
It is beginning to be the time of year when the weather gets cooler, the humidity drops and children who are in the habit of licking their lips develop dry cracked and chapped lips. Not only do children lick their lips, they also tend to lick the skin around their lips which results in more chapping and irritation, and the cycle begins. One little girl I saw could actually lick all of the way up to her nostrils!! She had to show me for me to believe that this is why her nose was chapped. (I foolishly thought it was from blowing her nose.)
Every one of the children habitually licked their lips while I examined them, even before telling them of their diagnosis. Several of the concerned parents "doubted" the diagnosis of lip lickers dermatitis, but I pulled out a derm book and proudly showed them pictures that looked just like their child. The rash can get quite raw and inflamed and if irritated and rubbed enough may even get secondarily infected.
The problem with lip lickers dermatitis is that it is a habit, just like thumb sucking, nail biting and hair twirling. As you know habits are hard to break, even when they cause discomfort. It is so hard not to moisten you lips when they are dry and are becoming drier. Licking your lips seems to improve the dryness but only for a moment.
The treatment of choice is to try and break the habit as well as to use a protective barrier on the lips and around the mouth. This is best accomplished with a thick layer of Aquaphor or Vaseline that must be reapplied quite frequently. For an older child you can give them a pocket tube to carry so that they may apply the moisturizer as often as need be, even every 30 minutes to an hour.
To aid in the treatment, the thicker the layer of Aquaphor the better, so once they are heading to bed I would GLOB on enough that they couldn't possibly lick it all off before falling asleep. It might be prudent to apply once last coat to their mouths after the child is already sleeping as well.
Lip Lickers Dermatitis is definitely a diagnosis and is quite common. I am taking the camera back to the office to grab a few pictures to post at a later date, as it is only the beginning of the dry, chapped and crack lip season.
That's your daily dose for today. I'm Dr. Sue for The Kid's Doctor.
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I recently received a question from a Twitter follower related to cradle cap and dandruff. She wanted to know if there was a difference in the two.
You know there really isn't as they are both to...
You know there really isn't as they are both due to seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin in which the skin overproduces skin cells and sebum (the skins natural oil).
Cradle cap is the term used for the scaly dermatitis seen on the scalp in infants. It is also seen on the eyelids, eyebrows, and behind the ears. It is typically seen after about three months of age and will often resolve on its own by the time a baby is eight to 12 months old. It is usually simply a cosmetic problem for a baby as it looks like a yellowish plaque on a baby's scalp and is often not even noticed by anyone other than the parents.
Unlike seborrheic dermatitis in adults, cradle cap typically doesn't itch. It is thought that cradle cap may occur in infancy due to hormonal influences from the mother that were passed across the placenta to the baby.
These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to become over active. In some severe cases an infant's scalp becomes really scaly and inflamed and causes even more parental concern, as it appears that the infant is uncomfortable and may be trying to scratch their head by rubbing it on surfaces.
The treatment for cradle cap is to wash the baby's scalp daily with a mild shampoo and then to use a soft comb or brush to help remove the scales once they have been loosened with washing. When washing the head make sure to get the shampoo behind the ears and in the brows (keeping the soap out of baby's eyes).
This is usually sufficient treatment for most cradle cap. In situations where the greasy scales seem to be worsening it may help to put a small amount of mineral oil or olive oil on the baby's head and let it sit (I left a small amount on my children's heads overnight) and then to shampoo the following day. The oil will help the scales to loosen up and come off more easily.
For babies that have very inflamed irritated cradle cap a visit to your pediatrician may be warranted to confirm the diagnosis. In persistent cases I often recommend shampooing several times a week with a dandruff shampoo that has either selenium (Selsun) or zinc pyrithione (Head and Shoulders) making sure not to get any in the infant's eyes. I may then also use a hydrocortisone cream or foam on the scalp that will lessen the inflammation and itching. In these cases it may take several weeks to totally clear up the problem.
As children get older, especially during puberty, you may see a return of seborrhea as dandruff. Again you can use dandruff shampoos. It also seems that with the overproduction of sebum there is an overgrowth of a fungus called malessizia so using a shampoo for dandruff as well as a antifungal shampoo (Nizoral) often works.
I have teens alternate different shampoos, as sometimes it seems to work better than always using the same shampoo for months on end. Teens don't like white flakes falling from their scalp and unlike a baby, a teen is worried about the cosmetic issues of seborrhea!
That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.
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