While hair loss is most commonly associated with men, and to a lesser extent women, children are not immune to hair loss. For instance, tinea capitis or alopecia areata can trigger hair loss in children. Tinea capitis is a fungal infection that forms when ringworms attack the scalp. Most patients who suffer from tinea capitis will first notice scaly patches on their head where their hair used to be. In fact, their hairs may look like tiny black dots on the top of their scalps, and the patches that form are usually oval or round. Fortunately, most doctors’ are able to quickly diagnose the infection via a microscopic examination of the scalp, with an oral antifungal medication, such as griseofulvin being prescribed as treatment. An antifungal shampoo, such as ketoconazole or selenium sulphide may also be prescribed to help reduce fungal shedding. Please note that tinea capitis is contagious, and the sharing of objects, such as brushes, combs, pillows, and hats, should be avoided during the treatment period.
As for alopecia areata, it is essentially an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss when the immune system attacks the body’s hair follicles. Alopecia areata is not contagious, and is characterized by smooth or slick patches of hair loss that appear suddenly. Moreover, the patches tend to be oval or round, and broken hairs and scaling are not common with alopecia areata cases. However, about 1 in 4 children who suffer from alopecia areata also develop ridging and pitting of their nails. Unfortunately, alopecia areata has no known cure, but there are a myriad of treatments available to help control the disease, including steroid injections, corticosteroid creams, and minoxidil (Rogaine). In fact, many will regrow all of their lost hair within an year, albeit regrowth patterns tend to be volatile, and most will end up losing their hair again in due time.
Other known causes of hair loss in children include trichotillonmania. Trichotillonmania is causes by hair twisting, plucking, or rubbing. Hair loss is usually characterized by broken hairs of differing lengths as well as patchy hair loss. Moreover, trichotillonmania is usually triggered by some environmental stressor, such as divorce, bullying, or the death of a family member. Fortunately, most children can be treated for trichotillonmania via counselling. Finally, high fevers, trauma to the scalp, surgery under general anaesthesia, blunt force trauma to the scalp, hypothyroidism, and zinc and/or vitamin H deficiency have also been linked to acute hair loss in children.