We know how it is. You would suffer anything for your children; you don’t want them to experience any real pain. And kids can be nasty too (whether they know it or not). It’s difficult for them to empathise with others; they don’t know their words hurt. If your school-age child is losing his/her hair, you worry about torment – and that’s on top of whatever is physically causing the hair loss.
If your GP is vague on possible causes and you’re imagining scary scenarios, it’s time to sit back and read the facts. (Remember, extreme stress can actually cause your hair to fall out too. Try to relax. You don’t want to exacerbate the situation, do you?)
You Should Know Your Child Isn’t the Only One
We know that doesn’t help much. But, it’s unlikely that your child is suffering with some rare disease that’s not yet diagnosed. Although it is not a large figure, about 3% of paediatric visits relate to hair loss. We assume the actual number of cases is a little higher; not everyone believes hair loss is a medical condition. (It is.)
There are a few likely reasons that your kid is losing his / her hair; it’s a matter of finding the cause and prescribing a course of action. And, the most common causes are usually the simplest to treat from a hair loss perspective. So, take a deep breath and let’s take a look.
Tinea capitis – This is the medical term for ringworm of the scalp. This type of hair loss presents itself as rounded, scaly patches on the head. Hairs appear to be broken at the surface. Fortunately, this is a fungal condition and can be treated with an oral anti-fungal medication along with the use of a special shampoo. Unfortunately, it is contagious and you will need to keep a close eye on child’s actions for a couple of months.
Telogen effluvium – This is a natural, physical response to illness or stress, linked to the life cycle of hair. After a growing phase, there is a resting phase after which hair falls out. In the case of an extreme illness, surgery or shock to the system, hair follicles may be forced into this resting phase. About six to eight weeks later, it will fall out (represented by either thinning or bald patches). By this time the illness or trauma seems a thing of the past. This condition is reversible with the proper treatment; however, if your child suffered extreme stress (such as a break-in, death of someone close, or a car accident), you should consider therapy alongside hair growth treatments.
Alopecia areata – This is a rare condition in the hair loss world (though there are other, more common forms of Alopecia), but it does happen. For some reason, the body sometimes mistakes its own hair follicles as a threat. Smooth, bald patches are indicative and diagnosis requires ruling out other possible causes and a scalp examination. Treatments can stimulate hair growth and may reverse hair loss. The odds of regaining a healthy head of hair are improved through early diagnosis, with only a small fraction of children progressing to a state of total hair loss.
Traction alopecia – If your little girl wears tight braids or pony tails, you might be pulling on the hair follicles too forcefully for them to cope. You’ll be able to spot hair loss where the hair is most commonly pulled, carries the most weight, or possibly on the back of the head where the braids rub against the pillow while sleeping). While this is more of a lifestyle adjustment, you may need to seek treatment to reverse the hair loss.
But, Before You Go…
There are just a few more things you need to know. Most of the hair loss that occurs in children is attributable to the above causes. However, hair loss can be a signal for something happening in the body at the moment. These range in severity, so you should be aware of the possibilities. These include:
- A Vitamin H (Biotin, and actually part of the B group of vitamins) or Zinc deficiency,
- Iron deficiency anemia or malnutrition (keep in mind that children have different nutritional needs than adults and special diets may contribute unintentionally to this condition),
- Diabetes mellitus,
- Lupus erythematosus, or
- A Vitamin toxicity.
Chances are your GP or paediatrician already considered these causes and ruled them out. But, it is your child that we’re talking about, so it’s always worth the extra trip to the doctor’s office or a follow-up consultation call. Whatever you do, don’t leave hair loss (especially in children) to chance. Whether it’s linked to a serious illness or simply a case of ringworm, your child’s chances of growing that healthy head of hair increase dramatically the sooner you attend to it.
And, don’t forget how cruel children can be on the playground. We know you don’t want that either.