Seeing a child’s hair fall out can make parents worried. Hair loss in children is not uncommon, but the cause may be different from baldness in adults. Often, children lose hair due to scalp disorders.
Many causes of hair loss in children are harmless. However, hair loss can have a negative impact on a child’s emotional well-being. Because of the possible hair loss, it is important to see a doctor for treatment.
1. Tinea capitis
Tinea capitis is the most common cause of hair loss in children. This is a type of ringworm that attacks the hair and causes the formation of scaly, ring-like lesions. It is a contagious fungal infection and is commonly spread among school-age children.
Tinea capitis can affect the hair on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Areas of hair loss are often scaly and contain hair that appears broken on the surface, citing Everyday Health.
Most cases of tinea capitis are diagnosed by appearing on the scalp.. Ultraviolet light can be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Tineacapitis is treated with antifungal medication and a special shampoo for eight weeks. This condition generally will not be contagious during treatment..
2. Alopecia areata
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss in children. The immune system attacks the follicles where hair grows. According to the American Hair Loss Association, about 1 in every 1,000 children has a localized version called alopecia areata.
Alopecia has several types, depending on the pattern of hair loss. These include:
- Alopecia areata: The form of bald patches on a child’s scalp.
- Alopecia totalis: All the hair on the scalp falls out.
- Alopecia Universalis: All the hair on the body falls out.
- Children with alopecia areata can go completely bald. Some stray hair on their bodies too.
Doctors diagnose alopecia areata by examining the child’s scalp. The doctor may take some hairs to examine under a microscope.
There is no cure for alopecia areata, but there are treatments that can help regrow hair. These include:
- Corticosteroid creams, lotions, or ointments.
3. Habit of pulling or twisting hair
As reported by Medical News Today, the habit of often pulling or twisting his hair can damage the hair follicles, causing hair loss. Some children develop this habit out of anxiety. Doctors call it trichotillomania. The good news, when this habit is stopped, hair can grow back.
Hair pulling is a type of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, so it’s important to treat the underlying cause. A child may benefit from therapy, emotional, social support, or medication.
4. Telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium is a condition when the hair life cycle is disrupted. Usually, about 10 to 15 percent of the hair on a child’s head is in the telogen phase. However, in the case of telogen effluvium, many or all of the hairs are thrown into the telogen phase. After a few weeks or months, partial or complete baldness will occur.
Telogen effluvium can occur for several reasons, including extreme fever, the stress of general anesthesia, vitamin A overdose, injury, side effects of medications (e.g., Accutane), or severe emotional stress.
There is no diagnostic test for telogen effluvium. Usually, it is diagnosed after a careful examination and medical history. The condition tends to go away on its own, and children’s hair usually grows back completely within six months to a year.
5. Hair shaft trauma
Physical stress on the hair, otherwise known as hair shaft trauma, commonly causes hair loss in children. Hair shaft trauma can result from consistent hair pulling (for example, a tight ponytail or braid), excessive friction (such as rubbing against a pillow or wheelchair), or by chemical burns to the hair shaft.
It can also occur in children with trichotillomania, a mental condition that obsessively causes people to pull out their hair.
If the pediatrician suspects hair shaft trauma, the doctor will determine what caused it. Once the cause of hair shaft trauma is identified and stopped, the hair will usually grow back. However, in some cases, hair shaft trauma can last long enough to cause scarring, and hair may not grow back.
6. Traction alopecia
Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that occurs when the skin faces a long-term challenge, such as a very tight braid or ponytail for a long time.
Some people also develop traction alopecia from poorly placed extensions. This can happen because of getting cheap extensions or installing extensions at home.
The scalp may be itchy and red, with large bald or thinning spots. The hair loss is usually dense in the area with the greatest stress. For example, a hairstyle that places hair at the temples will cause more hair to fall out there.
Traction alopecia will go away on its own with looser hairstyles, but it will take time for hair to grow back. If someone with this type of hair loss has a scalp infection, the doctor may recommend antibiotics.
Injuries to the scalp, such as burns or significant blows to the head, can damage hair follicles. This can cause significant rapid hair loss at the site of the injury. As the injury heals, the hair should grow back.
Immediate treatment is essential because untreated scalp injuries can damage the underlying structures and lead to permanent hair loss.
8. Lack of nutrition
When children do not get enough vitamins, minerals, and protein from their diet, their hair can fall out. Hair loss can be a sign of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, as well as a side effect of a low-protein vegetarian or vegan diet.
Lack of the following nutrients can cause hair loss in children:
- Proteins and amino acids.
- Too much vitamin A can also cause hair loss.
Pediatricians can suggest a healthy diet or prescribe supplements to treat nutritional deficiencies.
The thyroid is a gland in the neck. It releases hormones that help control the body’s metabolism. In the case of hypothyroidism, the thyroid does not produce enough of the hormones it needs to function properly. Symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Dry hair or hair loss all over the scalp
Hair loss should stop when the child is on thyroid hormone treatment. However, it can take several months for the hair to grow back.
Children who receive chemotherapy treatment will experience hair loss. Chemotherapy is a powerful drug that kills rapidly dividing cells in the body, including cells in hair roots. After the treatment is complete, your child’s hair should grow back.
11. Hair loss in newborns
During the first six months of life, most babies will lose the hair they were born with. Newborn hair falls out to make way for mature hair. This type of hair loss is completely normal and nothing to worry about.
12. Hair loss due to friction
Some babies lose hair on the back of the scalp because they rub their heads repeatedly against the mattress, floor, or something else. Children overcome this behavior as they become more mobile and begin to sit and stand. Once they stop rubbing their heads, their hair will grow back.
Products used to bleach, color, curl or straighten hair may contain harsh chemicals that damage the hair shaft. Avoid using this product for young children, or ask your pediatrician for a non-toxic version specially formulated for children.
14. Tie hair
Pulling a child’s hair back into a tight ponytail, braid, or bun causes trauma to the hair follicle. Hair can also fall out if your child brushes or combs it too hard. Be gentle when combing and styling your child’s hair, and keep the hair tie loose to prevent hair loss.
When should you go to the doctor?
Hair loss is a medical problem, so it’s important to see a doctor if your child loses more hair than usual. Some parents or caregivers panic when they see a clump of hair on a comb or hairbrush. However, all children lose some hair every day. Treatment if:
- The child complains of an itchy or painful scalp.
- Children lose eyebrows or eyelashes.
- There are visible bald spots.
- The child is starting to lose more hair than usual.
- A child experiences hair loss after an illness or while taking a new medication.
- The child has a scalp injury or burns.
- Children with chronic hair loss alopecia areata and children with significant bald spots may need psychological support. A mental health professional, such as a therapist, can help children manage their feelings about hair loss.
Hair loss is not uncommon in children. Many factors can cause it, including infection, stress, and tension in the hair. Most causes are treatable. See a doctor for an accurate diagnosis of the cause of hair loss in children.