It is completely normal for children to shed a small amount of hair every day. However, hair shedding in children becomes a concern when it becomes excessive because it could be caused by a number of underlying conditions. While both adults' and kids' hair follow the same growth cycles, hair loss in children can have different causes from hair loss in adults, the most common being scalp disorders. While hair loss might not be dangerous physically to the child, it can cause a lot of emotional suffering. Today we will look at some of the more common causes of excessive hair shedding in children.
Medical Causes of Hair Loss There are several underlying medical conditions that can cause a child to shed more hair than usual, and while the hair loss itself isn’t dangerous to the child the underlying causes might be. So if your child is losing too much hair you should always consult your pediatrician to make sure your child isn’t having any health problems that need to be treated. Here are a few of the most common medical causes.
Tinea Capitis- Tinea capitis, aka ringworm, is a fungal skin infection that can attack the scalp causing itchy ring-shaped lesions. The lesions become scaly and flaky and the hair begins to break off at the surface causing bald patches. The condition is contagious and can usually be diagnosed by a physical examination, though sometimes a skin scraping is necessary. This condition can be treated with oral and topical antifungal medications. Once the infection is cleared up the hair should start to grow back in just a few weeks.
Alopecia Areata- This is a scalp condition that causes a child’s hair to fall out in round or oval-shaped patches. This happens rapidly over the course of a few days and leaves smooth bald patches. This is an autoimmune disorder that causes the child’s immune system to attack their own hair follicles. There is no cure, though it can sometimes be treated with corticosteroid creams or other topical medications to promote hair regrowth.
Trichotillomania- This is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that mostly affects children and causes them to obsessively pull their own hair. Sometimes they don’t even realize that they are twisting and pulling their hair. The results are patches of missing or broken hair. The hair will regrow once the child stops pulling it out. Cognitive behavior therapy is the gold standard treatment for this condition.
Telogen Effluvium- This condition can affect adults and children alike. It is caused by extreme stress. The stress can be emotional or physical such as severe illness or injury. With this type of hair loss, a large number of hair follicles are pushed into their resting phase at the same time which means the hair sheds and no new growth is occurring. This can result in complete or partial hair loss. This condition is self-limiting and the hair will begin to regrow within 6 months to 1 year. The only treatment for this condition is hair replacement while waiting for the natural hair to regrow.
Nutritional Deficiencies- In order for hair to grow the hair follicles must receive adequate nutrition. An adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and protein is important for proper hair growth. Lack of vital nutrients like iron and protein can stem from a poor diet or medical conditions such as eating disorders or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Treating the underlying disorder by improving the diet and adding the proper supplements to correct the deficiency should restore hair growth.
Hypothyroidism- Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. This can lead to symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, and hair loss. When the condition is treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy the hair loss should stop.
Non-Medical Causes of Hair Loss
Some causes of hair loss in children don’t have an underlying medical cause. Here are a few examples.
Hair Ties- Elastic hair ties put stress on delicate strands. If the child’s hair is always pulled back in ponytails, braids, or buns with hair ties it can result in breakage and even pull hair out by the root. Keep hair ties loose to prevent trauma that can lead to thinning hair.
Chemicals- Sensitivities or reactions to harsh chemicals in hair care and styling products can lead to excessive shedding. Chemical processing can damage fragile young follicles as well. Ask your stylist for product recommendations to make sure you’re using gentle products that are good for your child’s hair.
Friction- This is a common cause of hair loss in babies and toddlers and young children who are very active sleepers. It’s caused by the child rubbing their head against some other surface like the side of the crib, car seat, or mattress. The resulting friction causes the hair to break off. When the child outgrows this habit the hair loss will stop.
Heat Styling- Excessive heat styling causes damage to the hair making it brittle and prone to breakage. So avoid blow drying, curling irons, and straightening irons whenever possible. When you do heat style apply a thermal protectant first to minimize damage.
If you are concerned about your child’s hair shedding, consult your pediatrician to rule out or treat any possible underlying causes and then schedule a consultation with the hair loss specialists at the Hair Restoration Institute. We’ll assess your child’s hair loss and develop a personalized hair restoration plan tailored to their unique needs. Our professional hair loss experts are always friendly, knowledgeable, and discreet. You can find us at 1201 West Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas, or call or 817-854-HAIR (4247) for your complimentary consultation with an experienced hair loss professional.