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Hair Loss in Children

Hair loss in children is much more widespread than most people suspect. As grown-ups, we view hair loss as a sign of vanished youth and we surrender ourselves to the unavoidable. But when our children lose hair, we are troubled, we feel let down at the fact that youth is slithering away from them before they have a chance to bask in the glory of life. Whether we look at hair loss as a sign of maturity and understanding, or a sign of youth lost prematurely, we ought to be aware of the signs that distinguish a pathological process from simple aging and genetics. Kids are subject to a number of causes of hair loss, some frequent, some uncommon.

The most widespread causes for child hair loss are listed below:

  1. Tinea capitis is the technical name for the scalp infection, a fungal infection similar to athlete's foot. It is the most common cause of hair loss in children, rare after puberty. Children suffering from tinea capitis generally have patchy hair loss with a few broken-off strands seen just above the surface of the scalp. Sometimes gray flakes or scales are seen. Treatment usually calls for an oral anti-fungal medication that must be taken for 4 to 8 weeks, but is very effective at curing the infection and restoring the hair. It can be prescribed by any medical practitioner.
  2. Alopecia areata – it means "localized baldness – is the sudden emergence of sharply hemmed in round or oval patches of hair loss. The patches are smooth, with no swelling, scaling, or broken hairs. At any point of time around one per thousand children has alopecia areata. It is said to be the result of the body's immune system attacking some of the hair follicles. Overall, the outlook for children with alopecia areata looks rather positive because with proper treatment, around 95% of them have all of their hair back within a year. A lot will have it much sooner. A number of treatments are available in the market today, mostly aimed at suppressing or distracting their immune system.
  3. Another common cause of hair loss in children is trauma to the hair shaft. Oftentimes, it is due to traction (braids, pony-tails, curlers, etc.) or by friction (hats, hair-bands, or rubbing against a bed or wheelchair). Trauma could n also be due to chemicals or by burns. Another cause of hair trauma is called trichotillomania. This is the habit of twirling or plucking hair and is very similar to thumb-sucking or nail-biting. So long as the hair trauma is not to acute or chronic enough to cause scarring, the hair will re-grow when the trauma stops.
  4. The other common cause of hair loss in children is telogen effluvium that is responsible for more hair loss than any other cause except male-pattern baldness. It affects children and grown-ups. In telogen effluvium, something happens to interrupt the normal life-cycle and to throw many or all of the hairs into the hair shedding phase. Around six to sixteen weeks later, partial or complete baldness appears. Many different events can cause telogen effluvium. These include
  • Certain medicines -- including chemotherapy
  • Childbirth
  • Crash diets
  • Emotional stress
  • Excess vitamin A
  • High fevers
  • Severe injuries
  • Surgery

Once the stress situation subsides, complete hair growth generally happens within around six months. Meanwhile, it is wise to avoid overly vigorous shampooing, brushing, or drying.