If you think hair loss in children is extremely rare, you’ll be surprised to learn it’s not that uncommon. Approximately three percent of all pediatric visits in the U.S. are related to children’s hair loss. Hair loss is difficult for most adults. When it comes to children, it’s heartbreaking.
The good news is that most children who suffer from hair loss can be successfully treated. The key is early and accurate diagnosis. That’s why it’s crucial to get pediatric advice from a medical professional as soon as hair loss is noticed.
There are a number of conditions that cause hair loss in children. Tinea capitis and alopecia areata are the most common.
Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp)
Tinea capitis is the single most common cause of hair loss in children and is brought on by a fungal infection. It causes patchy hair loss and broken hairs. Patches are usually round or oval but can take various shapes. Gray flakes may also be present.
It is treated with an oral antifungal medication taken for eight weeks along with Nizoral shampoo, which is used on the scalp 2-3 times per week. For treatment to succeed, this regimen must be followed precisely. Children using the treatment are not contagious.
With alopecia areata, oval patches appear suddenly and they are completely bald and smooth. There is no inflammation, flaking, or broken hair. This condition affects one in a thousand children and twenty-five percent of these children will also have pitting and ridging of the nails.
Treatment is usually provided by a dermatologist and a large percentage of children will have all of their hair back within a year. None of the treatments currently available cure alopecia areata but they can help reverse the symptoms.
Other conditions that may cause hair loss in children include trauma and telogen effluvium. These will be explored in a later article.