Alopecia in Children
It can be shocking and frightening to see your young child excessively shed hair or develop bald spots. After all, hair loss only affects adults – at least that’s what most people think. However, this notion is not entirely true. Whilst most hair loss sufferers are adults, alopecia in children is not uncommon. In the United States, around 3% of pediatric visits each year are due to hair loss concerns.
It is known that a lot of adults who suffer from hair loss have a difficult time coping with it. The same is true for children with alopecia. In fact, for these young ones, losing their hair brings immense psychological and emotional stress. Not pleased with how they look and, at times, even bullied by peers because of their conidtion, these children’s self-esteem greatly suffers.
Undeniably, experiencing hair loss is a very traumatic experience for children. When not addressed immediately, this can deeply hurt their confidence, body image and quality of life. Even parents like you are not spared from psychological stress. Seeing your child go through such a difficult ordeal can be emotionally taxing.
Due to its negative effect on your child’s life as well as yours, it is imperative that you consult a hair loss specialist immediately. Diagnosing alopecia in children involves visual examination of the hair and scalp and taking the child’s complete medical and family history. Once a diagnosis is made, the doctor can create a treatment plan to stop child’s hair loss or help him or her manage it better.
What’s the Leading Cause of Alopecia in Children?
The top causes of hair loss in children are different from those that usually affect adults. Below are some of the top reasons why kids excessively shed hair or develop bald spots:
Tinea capitis is the most common cause of hair loss in children. Also called ringworm of the scalp, this scalp infection is due to a fungus. It is a contagious condition which is often contracted when personal items which touched the scalp like combs are shared.
If your child has tinea capitis, he or she may have patches of hair loss which are scaly and reddish in colour. These patches may also show black dots which are actually hairs broken off at the surface. In some cases, these symptoms are accompanied by fever.
Diagnosing tinea capitis may involve scraping a small portion of the infected scalp for microscopic examination. The treatment of this condition often entails the use of antifungal medication and shampoo.
Alopecia areata is characterised by round, smooth patches of hair loss on the scalp. Around 25% of known cases of alopecia areata involved children.
Experiencing this hair loss condition can be scary, especially for the young ones, because clumps of hair usually fall suddenly. In some cases, alopecia areata even progresses to alopecia totalis, a condition when all the hair on the scalp is lost. There are also a few who experience total loss of body hair, a condition called alopecia universalis.
It is still not completely understood why alopecia areata happens. What’s known so far is that the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Unlike tinea capitis, alopecia areata has no cure. But there are treatments which can help children regrow hair that they’ve lost in six months to a year.
Alopecia areata is a recurring condition. While regrowth may occur, it is not impossible for hair to fall off again. This is why it is important that you have an experienced doctor who can help you and your child deal with this condition.
Children with telogen effluvium may lose over 300 hair strands per day instead of the normal 100 strands. This happens because over 80% of the hair strands entre the resting or telogen phase prematurely. Physical stress or trauma due to a high fever or surgery is the known trigger of telogen effluvium.
The hair loss is usually diffuse making it difficult for most parents to recognise that there is a problem. There are also a few cases wherein this hair loss condition causes bald spots.
Telogen effluvium often gets resolved even without treatment. Once the stressor is removed, your child can have a full head of hair again in a year or less.
Other causes of alopecia in children include trichotillomania and traction alopecia. Trichotillomania is a condition wherein kids pull or pluck their hair, resulting in broken hairs and bald patches. Behavioural therapy focusing on habit reversal techniques is the primary treatment employed for this problem. Medications to promote hair regrowth and address scalp infection may also be prescribed.
Traction alopecia is a hair loss condition caused by frequently tying the hair too tight. While it may seem harmless, the repeated gentle pulling of the hair can put undue strain on the follicles in the long run. This may lead to follicle inflammation and eventually, hair loss. The hair loss happens gradually which is why most parents do not notice it immediately. If your child has traction alopecia, avoid tight hairstyles like buns and braids. In most cases, the hair grows back for as long as the problem is addressed early.
Most hair loss conditions that affect children are not permanent. Moreover, they can be successfully treated. However, just like in adults, it is important to address the problem early. If your think your child is losing too much hair, take him/her to a doctor quickly. This is not just to ensure better treatment outcomes, but to protect his/her emotional well-being.
Alopecia in children can be successfully treated or managed. Let us help your child get the right treatment for his/her hair loss problem. Call us at (0)1 6793618 and talk to our experienced hair loss consultant.