Hair Loss, or alopecia, isn’t just a problem for adults. It is responsible for an estimated 6-8 percent of clinic visits for anxious parents worldwide.
Hair loss (alopecia) is a scary and frustrating symptom for parents, especially since you don’t really expect kids to lose their hair.Unfortunately, hair loss is a common symptom, even in kids.
In many cases, the hair loss is temporary though, and the child’s hair does grow back.
However, the good news is that, with proper diagnosis and professional treatment, most cases of hair loss in children can be managed successfully.
Tinea capitis, or ringworm of the scalp, is a fungal infection. It is a common cause of hair loss in children. It presents with scaly patches of hair loss on the scalp. The patches are generally round or oval.Scalp ringworm signs and symptoms can be more subtle though, with no scaling or itching, and broken hairs instead of hair loss (black dot tinea capitis).
Ringworm is contagious. Make sure your child does not share any objects that touch the head or scalp, such as towels, caps, scarf, pillow cases, or brushes.
PATCHY HAIR LOSS (alopecia areata)
Alopecia areata is thought to be an autoimmune disorder (the child’s immune’s system attacks the hair follicles) that causes complete hair loss in round or oval patches on a child’s scalp or other body part. Unlike ringworm, the scalp involved in the round patches of alopecia areata is completely smooth, without redness or scale.
The patches are glossy or smooth there may be no scaling or broken hair. It is reported that nearly 25 percent of children with patchy hair loss may also have pitting and ridging of their finger nails. Most children regain lost hair within a year’s time, albeit re-growth is erratic, or one may lose hair again.
About 5percent of children with the disorder may progress to alopecia totalis, or complete loss of all hair on the scalp. Some may also develop alopecia universalis, or total of body hair.
Alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis are similar to alopecia areata, except that the child loses all scalp hair (alopecia totalis) or all scalp hair and all body hair (alopecia universalis). The chances for treatment success and hair regrowth are less for alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis than they are for alopecia areata.
This type of hair loss emerges following about of high fever, flu or severe emotional stress. It occurs when hair in its growth phase is abruptly stunted and moved into its resting phase. The shedding, a ‘mass migration’ of hair follicles from growth into dormancy, can last for up to six weeks. The hair loss is not total it may also not show up in patches. Hair typically appears thin throughout the scalp.
Children with telogen effluvium continue to lose hair, often in large clumps for a few weeks or months, to the point that their hair may be noticeably thin. But then their hair begins to grow again in about six months without any treatments. It is thought that this hair loss occurs because the original stressor pushes the child’s hair into a resting or dormant phase, instead of its more usual long growth phase. It then falls out until new hair grows and then follows the normal growth phases for hair.
Most parents who visit their doctor are worried that their child may have a dangerous illness or disease. The redeeming part is hair takes 3-6 moths to re-enter the growth phase- although this makes hair restoration look like a slow, long drawn-out process.
This is hair loss that occurs after physical damage to the hair. Traction alopecia is a common cause of hair loss, particularly in girls. It can emerge due to fluffing, combing, washing, curling, blow drying, got combing, straightening and bleaching. A point to note here is the very hairstyles that are used for kids to make them look cute may be damaging to their hair. Styles that apply tension to the hair, such as tight ponytails, braiding, barrettes and permanent weaving, can also damage the hair and trigger hair loss.
It is also seen in in newborns and infants who lose hair on the back of their head from rubbing it against their crib.
The hair will usually return, after counseling and treatment, but re-growth can be slow. Because, the ‘injured’ hair follicles do not heal quickly, they often take- 3-6 months before they return to their growing phase.
This type of hair loss is caused when the child pulls, plucks, twists, or rubs his or her hair vigorously owing to emotional distress, peer and parental pressure. The hair loss is patchy and ‘represented’ by broken hair of varying length. Patches are also most often seen on the side of the child’s dominant hand. Girls, having emotional problems, seem more inclined to pull their own hair, rather than boys.
Trichotillomania is sometimes related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and is defined as a child or teen who compulsively pulls out her hair, feels tension before pulling or when trying to resist pulling, and feels pleasure, gratification, or relief when pulling her hair out. These children have noticeable hair loss and often need treatment from a child psychiatrist and/or child psychologist.
Other Causes of Hair Loss
In addition to ringworm, hair pulling, traction alopecia, and the other causes of hair loss mentioned above, other less common causes of hair loss can include:
– thyroid disorders, including either hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
– illnesses, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, diabetes mellitus, or iron-deficiency anemia.
– vitamin A toxicity.
– structural abnormalities of the hair shaft which usually results in easy breakage and dry, brittle hair.