We don’t often come across children with hair loss. In fact, we don’t even think about hair loss as a problem for kids.
But children aren’t immune to hair loss. Almost 3% of all pediatric visits are related to hair loss (1). It is normal for babies to have bald patches and even lose hair before the growth of permanent hair. But when hair fall does not follow with healthy growth of scalp and body hair, it is a cause for concern.
MomJunction tells you about hair loss in children, its causes, treatment, and home remedies.
Causes of Hair Loss In Children
Children can lose hair due to medical or non-medical reasons.
Medical causes of hair loss
A majority of children aged 26 months usually lose hair due to one of the following medical conditions. The impact of the condition may be direct or indirect.
1. Tinea capitis
Tinea capitis or ringworm of the scalp is the most common cause of hair loss in children. This is a contagious, fungal infection that results in loss of hair patches and can be treated using anti-fungal topical creams and anti-fungal shampoos.
Around 40% of hair loss problems in children are caused by this, with males being affected more than females (2). You can prevent this infection by not sharing combs and other hair accessories. Also, do not share pillows or anything that comes into contact with things that could spread scalp infection.
[ Read: Treatments For Dandruff In Kids ]
2. Alopecia areata
The autoimmune disease affects hair follicles. Children with alopecia areata lose patches of hair, but there won’t be any signs of scaling or broken hair. The disease is characterized by the sudden appearance of patches and may sometimes result in ridging or pitting of nails as well.
Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact cause of this condition, but studies have found that most children with alopecia areata get their hair back within a year or so (3). Alopecia areata is not contagious and not curable either, as is the case with most autoimmune diseases. Treatment, however, can help in controlling the disease from developing into alopecia totalis, which is a complete loss of scalp hair, or the alopecia universalis, which is the loss of body hair.
3. Telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium is the loss of hair caused due to sudden and severe emotional stress, following flu, fever, or any other illness. Usually, hair comes into a resting phase during this time, which means there is no growth. Once the child is back to normal health and free from any stress, the hair regrows. The growth and restoration phase takes anywhere between three and six months.
4. Vitamin deficiency
Lack of certain vitamins and essential minerals may also result in hair fall. Excessive hair loss in children, leading to scaling or splitting of the hair could indicate a deficiency of:
- Vitamin H, also known as biotin
- One of the B complex vitamins
- Zinc, which supports growth and development of the children
- Iron, and existence of anemia caused due to deficiency of iron
This is yet another stress related condition where the child is compelled to pull his or her hair. It results in patches of hair loss in children, and sometimes in loss of eyebrows and eyelashes. The condition may not be as evident in the beginning because most children tend to pull their hair at night while sleeping. It has been observed that the areas affected by hair loss are right in case of right-handed children and left in case of left-handed children.
Treating the cause of anxiety or stress, rather than hair fall or loss, prevents this condition.
[ Read: Folliculitis In Children ]
6. Endocrine problems
In children, hair loss could also be due to hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid hormone is not as active as it should be in the body.
7. Medications and other treatments
Sometimes, hair loss could be the side-effect of treatments or medications taken for other medical conditions. One such cause is chemotherapy, which results in total or partial scalp hair loss. Some drugs may also cause temporary hair loss, even if hair loss is not one of the top side-effects listed for that medicine (4). So make sure you ask the doctor or research online about the possible side-effects of a drug your child has to take.
Non-medical causes of hair loss in children
Hair loss can also be due to non-medical conditions such as (5):
8. Newborn hair loss
Hair loss is normal among newborn children. They lose their baby hair during the first few months, followed by growth of stronger, permanent hair.
The constant friction of the scalp with the bed or car seat may result in bald patches on the baby’s scalp. The hair loss ideally stops, and hair growth begins when the child starts to sit up.
10. Traction alopecia and hair abuse
A child’s hair is quite fragile, unlike an adult’s. Traction alopecia is the physical damage to hair caused due to excessive teasing, combing, weaving, braiding, straightening, curling, or bleaching. Something as simple as a tight ponytail hairstyle or cornrows can also damage the delicate hair of a child, while it may not affect an adult the same way (6).
[ Read: Alopecia Areata In Children ]
Diagnosis Of Hair Loss Problems In Kids
The doctor would go through the child’s medical history and do a thorough examination of the scalp. In some cases, the doctor may also gently pluck a hair or two from the child’s head for lab tests or further analysis.
If the doctor suspects that the hair loss is due to nutritional deficiency, he may recommend a few more tests for clarity.
Treating Children With Hair Loss
The course of treatment for hair loss in kids depends on what is causing it. If it is a fungal infection, antifungal shampoos or topical creams have to be used. There are no FDA approved medications for alopecia areata, although certain off-label drugs can be used for hair growth and to control hair fall (7).
If it is trauma to the hair or emotional stress that is causing hair loss, the doctor may recommend a few lifestyle and behavioral changes to control hair fall. A proper diet is also necessary to help the child fight hair fall due to nutritional deficiency.
Coping With Hair Loss
Hair loss has an emotional impact on a child. It can be embarrassing for some, especially for school-going children, who get bullied for being bald. Along with the treatment, you should also give them emotional support to cope with the changes.
- If the child is old enough to understand, explain why they have hair loss and how it can be handled. Give them clarity about it, so they know what to expect.
- You could help them choose an accessory like a cap or a bandana to cover the shaved head. But do so only if they ask for it because by offering them proactively you are indirectly telling them that hair loss is a flaw that needs to be rectified.
- Tell your child he or she looks beautiful the way they are and there is no shame in not having hair on their head.
- If the child wants to use a wig in the case of long-term or permanent hair-loss, let them, unless the doctor advises against it (due to fungal infection). Let it be their personal choice.
If your child is old enough to understand, tell that hair or lack of it does not affect the beauty of a person.
Home Remedies For Hair Loss In Kids
Hair loss due to nutritional deficiency and environmental factors can be prevented with a few precautions. But if hair loss is due to a medical condition, treatment is imperative. Here are a few home remedies that can aid in hair loss treatment .
Note that these remedies won’t cure the condition that is causing hair loss. They only aid in treatment by supplying the necessary nutrition to the body.
[ Read: White Hair In Kids ]
- Coconut oil is commonly used for hair as it acts as a conditioner, cleanses the hair from the tips, and also keeps dandruff away. Using coconut oil can aid in hair growth and health. Conditioning with coconut oil also gives the hair a voluminous look.
- Olive oil can be used to strengthen the hair and prevent hair fall. You can also use jojoba oil, mustard oil, and neem oil to nourish the hair and prevent hair loss.
- A healthy diet with foods rich in vitamins A, C and E, zinc, and iron also aid in the treatment.
- Apple cider vinegar nourishes the hair by supplying the essential nutrients and enabling the body to generate the required nutrients for healthy hair growth in kids. You can apply apple cider vinegar to the scalp and wash it after six hours. But do check with the child’s doctor before trying this.
- A B complex vitamin called biotin also helps regenerate lost hair in children. Using biotin supplements every day can aid growth after hair loss.
- Indian gooseberry or amla is one of the popular natural remedies you can try. The berry stimulates follicle growth and also strengthens the hair. It is often made into juice, mixed with oil (coconut, jojoba, neem or almond).
- Juice of alfa alfa, which needs to be consumed, is also a popular remedy for preventing hair loss.
- Start a hair care routine that includes washing, drying, brushing and combing the hair in a gentle manner. This can go a long way in establishing hair care habits that do not result in hair abuse.
Remember to gently massage the scalp with clean hands or cotton when applying oils. This will regulate blood flow to the scalp and enhance hair growth and health. In addition to the above, you can also use baking soda, lecithin granules (for alopecia treatment), and organic or chemical-free hair products to aid the treatment of hair loss.
Dealing with hair loss in children is not an easy task. But with the right course of treatment, home remedies, and attitude towards the condition, hair loss can be a much smaller problem for the child.
[ Read: Prednisone For Kids ]
Do you have any tips on hair care and management to prevent sudden hair loss in children? Share them here.
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