Children's Hair Loss & Most Appropriate Treatment

1. Children's Tinea Capitis - The Most Common Type

Children's Tinea Capitis

Also known as scalp ringworm. It can show up in a number of ways, but often as scaly patches of hair loss on the head. The patches are usually round or oval. The hairs may be broken off at the surface of the skin and look like black dots on the scalp.

Tinea Capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp and hair shafts. It is a highly contagious infection and most commonly seen in children between 3 and 7 years of age, slightly more common in boys than girls. In most cases, the Tinea Capitis is transferred by way of contact with animals (eg dogs, cats, cows, hamsters and guinea pigs). Most mammals have a skin fungus with which they live in peaceful coexistence, without any symptoms for the animal, but the fungus can be transferred to humans.

Scalp ringworm is treated with oral antifungal medicines at least 6-8 weeks. The topical anti-fungal treatments are ineffective as the fungus invades deep into the hair follicle where the topical medications do not adequately penetrate.

2. Children's Alopecia Areata - The Second Common Type

Children's Alopecia Areata

AA starts as a smooth bald patch that suddenly appears, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. There are usually no symptoms but some people feel a tingling sensation or very mild pain in the affected area. For about 5% of children the disease progresses to loss of all of the hair on the scalp.

AA is an autoimmune disease which means the child's own white blood cells mistakenly turn on the hair follicles and cause hair growth to stop. It may occur in susceptible children of any age, but it's believed certain factors may trigger it, such as illness, vaccinations or food allergies.

There is no cure for alopecia areata in children and no medications have been approved for its treatment. There has been some success with use of medications that suppress the immune system, but the side-effects may outweigh the benefits for a disease that will probably resolve on its own. Fortunately though, over 80% of children with alopecia areata will re-grow their hair within 12 months without any treatment.

3. Children's Traction Alopecia

Children's Traction Alopecia

Traction Alopecia, or physical damage to the hair, is another common cause of hair loss, particularly in girls. The human hair is quite fragile and really does not respond well to the many physical and chemical assaults it has to endure in the name of beauty. Constant teasing, fluffing, combing, washing, curling, blow drying, hot combing, straightening and bleaching can do a number on the fragile hairs, causing them to fall out, especially those by the hair line and along the front and sides.

In adults, this typically is not as much of a problem, as the hair has grown in strength and quality over several years, but it can pose a problem for our little companions who typically have much thinner, more fair, less dense hair. Styles that apply tension to the hair, such as tight ponytails, braiding, barrettes, and permanent waving can also damage the hair. One should not assume that hair loss in one's child is due to pony tails that are too tight. If hair loss is being seen, it is imperative that you have a physician evaluate the child and rule out other causes.

Treatment for children's traction Alopecia is to handle the hair gently, as little as possible, and use natural hair styles. The hair will usually return, but regrowth can be slow. Injured hair follicles do not heal quickly and often take three or more months before they are back to their growing phase.

4. Children's Trichotillomania

Children's Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is the compulsion to pull out one's own hair. It results in irregular patches of incomplete hair loss, mainly on the scalp, but may involve the eyebrows and eyelashes as well. The habit of pulling out one's hair is usually practiced in bed before falling asleep or when the child is studying or watching television. Interestingly, parents are usually not aware of the habit and frequently find it hard to believe that their child would do such a thing. Affected areas of hair loss often appear on the left side of right-handed children and on the right side of left-handed youngsters. Most cases of Trichotillomania resolve spontaneously.

Diagnosis of this type of Alopecia can be done in the convenience of your own home, by closely evaluating your child to see if they have this habit. The cause of this type of condition many times is related to stress, long term ongoing tension, or other possible psychological or emotional deficiencies the child may be in need of at the time.

The best treatment is to ignore the hair pulling and concentrate on why the child is anxious, nervous or frustrated.

5. Children's Telogen Effluvium

Children's Telogen Effluvium

Following a high fever, flu, or severe emotional stress, hairs that were in their growth phase can sometimes be suddenly converted into their resting phase. Two to four months later, when the child is otherwise fine and the stress is forgotten, these hairs can begin to shed. The shedding, which is actually a mass exodus of follicles from growth into dormancy, can last for up to six weeks.

The hair loss is not total nor does it tend to show up in patches. It typically just appears thin throughout the scalp. Unless the initial cause is repeated, all the hairs normally return (Telogen effluvium explains why many mothers lose so much hair weeks after childbirth).

Most parents who bring their child to the physician for this condition are worried that the youngster has cancer or another bad disease. Hair takes between 3 and 6 months to re-enter into growth phase, so the restoration can be somewhat slow.