The hair for a baby is produced inside the womb to the baby warm. This fetal hair is replaced by small, finer hair fibers called vellus hair just before we are born. By the time we turn 2, all the vellus hair on the scalp gets replaced by thick, long, matured terminal hair. Hair growth cause of hair loss in children is part of the growth cycle of hair and is normal. Health and nutrition play a very important role in the growth of a baby’s hair.
As we age, we see our hair falling more than it should, forcing us to accept it as part of the ageing process. However, shockingly, hair loss or baldness is seen in children these days. Children as young as two years old are suffering from alopecia and hair thinning. Though hair loss does not affect the health and wellbeing of the body, it has serious psychological and emotional effects and must be given proper attention and treatment.
Let us look at the various factors and conditions that cause hair loss in children.
Causes of Hair Loss in Children:
There are various psychological, physiological, and environmental factors behind hair loss in children. Though in most cases, it is treatable, sometimes, depending on the condition, it may be permanent. A pediatric dermatologist can easily diagnose the cause and condition and suggest an appropriate treatment process. Let us discuss some most common medical and non-medical causes of hair loss in children.
Medical Causes of Hair Loss in Children:
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1. Tinea Capitis:
This is a fungal infection of the scalp and is the most common cause of hair fall in children. The group of fungus behind this infection is called dermatophytes, which feed on hair proteins called keratin. This fungus attacks the hair follicles and hair shafts, causing hair loss in patches, and broken hair at the skin surface. The other symptoms include itchy scalp, redness, and scaling of the scalp and swollen lymph nodes in the back of the neck accompanied by a low-grade fever. Visual examination, Wood’s lamp test, and microscopic examination of skin samples are common diagnostic methods. Tinea cap it is contagious, and children must avoid sharing hairbrushes, hair products, pillowcases, etc. It is treated with oral anti-fungal medication course lasting for eight weeks.
2. Alopecia Areata:
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks a person’s own hair follicles, causing hair loss. It starts with sudden hair loss with round or oval patches; these patches are smooth without any scaling or redness. The more severe cases of this autoimmune condition are alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis. In alopecia totalis, all scalp hair is lost, and in alopecia universalis, all body hair is lost. The hair does grow back after a few months or a year, but only to fall off again, this pattern continues. There is no particular diagnostic test for this condition, but it is concluded based on visual examination and by ruling out other conditions. Though there is no cure, some steroids, UV light therapy, topical medications, etc. are used to trigger hair regrowth but with low success rate.
Trichotillomania is a condition where the child compulsively plucks the hair from its roots, resulting in hair loss in patches and broken hair. Emotional and psychological stress and anxiety triggered by stressful or traumatic conditions cause this condition. Though some research also links this behaviour to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This condition is treated with behavioural therapy and psychological therapy. The hair grows back when the behaviour is controlled, and if the hair follicles are not irreversibly damaged or scarred.
4. Telogen Effluvium:
Telogen effluvium is a hair loss condition where the hair strands are pushed into the resting phase prematurely, resulting in partial or total baldness. The growth cycle of hair has three phases – growth phase, the transitional phase, and the resting phase. When the resting phase ends, the hair strand is shed, and a new cycle starts with new hair strand growing. Losing around 100 hair strands each day is normal. When hair strands enter the resting phase too early, breaking normal growth, they are shed quickly and prematurely. This condition is caused by physical and mental stress like an injury, high fevers, surgery, emotionally stressful, and traumatic events, etc. The hair grows back when the stressful event passes, usually within six months to one year.
In this condition, the thyroid gland secretes insufficient thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormone helps control and regulate various metabolic functions in the body, underproduction of these hormones lead to various metabolic imbalances that cause hair loss, weight gain, dry skin, joint pains, fatigue, etc. This condition is diagnosed with a blood test. It is treated with an oral medication course. The hair starts growing back as soon as the hormone levels come back to normal.
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Chemotherapy is a common treatment method for cancer where chemical drugs are administered to destroy or prevent rapid cell growth. In this process, the hair cells are also destroyed, thus resulting in hair loss. There is no treatment for this condition as the hair grows back once the chemotherapy ends.
7. Nutritional Deficiency:
Nutritional deficiencies cause various health problems in children, including hair loss. Healthy hair growth needs sufficient proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Adequate amounts of zinc, iron, niacin, biotin, amino acids, vitamin A, and vitamin H are needed for healthy sustenance of hair follicles and development of hair. Poor eating habits, eating disorders like anorexia, and bulimia are common factors behind these nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies are usually diagnosed with a blood test or a urine test. Nutritional supplements and a healthy diet rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins help in hair regrowth.
Non-Medical Causes of Hair Loss in Children:
There are also non-medical causes of hair loss in kids that can be cured with simple lifestyle changes and dietary habits.
1. Friction Hair Loss:
This is a very common cause of hair fall in toddlers. The hair strands in babies are very delicate. When there is a little too much friction on the scalp, the hair strands fall out, resulting in hair loss. Rubbing of the head on the mattress or floor or any other surface regularly causes this kind of hair loss. When the baby starts walking and sitting more often, this friction is reduced, and the hair grows back.
2. New Born Hair Loss:
Newborn babies lose hair during their first few months, usually until six months of age or a little more than that. This is part of the normal body functioning as the baby hair must be replaced with thick and mature terminal hair. There is no reason to worry if the baby is going through this condition as such hair loss in toddlers is part of normal hair growth.
3. Chemical Based Products:
Chemical hair products and heat styling tools like blow dryers, curling and straightening tools, bleaching and colouring products, etc. can damage the hair follicles in children resulting in hair falling out. The best way to treat this hair loss condition is to avoid heat styling tools and chemical products entirely. Natural and herbal products are always a safe and effective option.
4. Tight Hair Styles:
Hair follicles in children are very sensitive, so the hair needs to be handled gently. When the hair is pulled back tightly to make a ponytail, buns, or for other hairstyles, the hair follicles are damaged, resulting in hair loss. Combing too hard with hairbrushes can also cause trauma to hair follicles. Hairstyling and combing must be handled gently with soft products.
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Losing hair can be very traumatic to kids, especially when they are starting school. Appropriate measures, lifestyle improvements, and a healthy diet can help in most cases. Severe hair loss symptoms should not be ignored, as delays may make the problem worse. It is always advisable to consult a dermatologist immediately to find out the underlying cause of hair loss in children, to increase the chance of the success of treatments if any.