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Childhood Hair Loss and Hair Replacement

April 10 2018

Vern Cole

Pediatric hair loss can be devastating. Many believe that hair loss in children is not very common. However, statistics indicate that about 3% of all pediatric visits are related to childhood hair loss. The following conditions are responsible for the vast majority of pediatric hair loss: (1) tinea capitis, (2) alopecia areata, (3) trauma to the hair shaft, and (4) telogen effluvium.

The good news is that hair loss in a majority of children will resolve itself. If this is the case for your child, coping with hair loss and the regrowth period will take center stage. However, about 40% of incidences of childhood hair loss do not resolve. And if you’re a parent to a child in that 40% whose hair loss does not correct itself, coping with your child’s hair loss is only a part of the process. Seeking a medical consultation and going for a second (and sometimes third!) opinion may be necessary in order to find out what is causing your child’s hair loss.

Tinea capitis is the most common form of hair loss in children. According to Dr. Kao, Clinical Professor of Dermatopathology, Department of Dermatology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and George Washington University Medical School, tinea capitis is a disease caused by a fungal infection of the skin on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes. This particular type of fungus primarily attacks hair shafts and follicles. You may also have heard tinea capitis being referred to as ringworm of the scalp.

Tinea capitis often looks like patches of red, inflamed scalp, which results in the hair becoming brittle and breaking off a few millimeters above the scalp. Children are most likely to contract this disease between the ages of three and seven. Treatment for this condition varies based on type of fungus and intensity of inflammation. Usually, medical care will include oral therapy, topical treatments, antifungal medications, shampoos, or a combination of some or all of the above.

Trauma to the hair shaft is another common cause of hair loss in children, often presenting itself in the form of traction alopecia. Trichotillomania, the compulsive habit of hair pulling, is another form of trauma that is rarely discussed and often misunderstood. Parents can help alleviate traction alopecia by monitoring the type of hair ties and styles that their child wears. Elastic bands can pull the hair and traumatize the hair shaft if the elastic tangles with the hair or pulls the hair too thightly. Additionally, tying children’s hair in extremely tight styles and leaving their hair in the same position can strain the hair follicle and damage the shaft. Consider changing your child’s style often in order to allow different parts of your child’s hair to relax and flow in its natural way.

Being a kid is challenging enough, never mind having to worry about hair loss. If you’re a parent to a child managing hair loss, it is important to remain optimistic, present a positive outlook and remind your child of his or her strengths and skills. Hair loss can be embarrassing for children. A trained hair loss professional may be able to help with a realistic hair prosthesis or wig to help you child feel as part of their peer group and to fit in at school.

Childhood Hair Loss and Hair Replacement