For most teens and adults, dandruff symptoms are easy to spot: white, oily looking flakes of dead skin that dot your hair and shoulders, and a possibly itchy, scaly scalp. The condition may worsen during the fall and winter, when indoor heating can contribute to dry skin, and improve during the summer.

A type of dandruff called cradle cap can affect babies. This disorder, which causes a scaly, crusty scalp, is most common in newborns, but it can occur anytime during infancy. Although it can be alarming for parents, cradle cap isn't dangerous and usually clears up on its own by the time a baby is 3 years old.

When to see a doctor

Most cases of dandruff don't require a doctor's care. But if you're still scratching your head after several weeks of experimenting with over-the-counter (OTC) dandruff shampoos, or if your scalp becomes red or swollen, see your doctor or dermatologist. You may have seborrheic dermatitis or another condition that resembles dandruff. Often your doctor can diagnose the problem simply by looking at your hair and scalp.

Jan. 23, 2014