Hair loss doesn’t just affect adults. The NHS in the UK has reported a rise in children seeking treatment for hair loss which led to the opening of the first dedicated NHS hair loss clinic for children in 2013 at the St John’s Institute of Dermatology in London, England.
Why do children lose their hair?
Medical conditions are usually at the root of hair loss in children and, most of the time, these can be managed and treated successfully.
Alopecia areata; affecting both children and adults, this hair loss condition is thought to be caused by an attack on the hair follicles by the body’s immune system. Usually presents as sudden hair loss in the form of round, smooth patches and it can also affect the nails. For a small percentage this will develop into alopecia totalis which is totally loss of scalp hair and, for a few children, this can become a total loss of all hair on the body, known as alopecia universalis.
Treatment for alopecia areata; no cure exists currently but treatments such as strong topical corticosteroid creams can help regrow the hair.
Tinea capitis; this is also known as ringworm and is a fungal infection that is common in children. It presents as scaly, round patches on the head. As the hairs are often broken off at the surface it looks like black dots.
Treatment for tinea capitis; after diagnosis is confirmed, your child will usually be prescribed an oral anti-fungal combined with a topical anti-fungal shampoo. You will also be advised to limit contact as ringworm is highly contagious.
Trichotillomania; some children can develop the habit of plucking, pulling or rubbing of the hair, usually in response to a stressful incident. Hair loss is patchy and it may present as hair of different lengths all over.
Treatment for trichotillomania; counselling is usually recommended to resolve this habit.
Telogen effluvium; in this hair loss condition the hair growth cycle is interrupted as a result as an extremely stressful experience, either physical or emotional.
Treatment for telogen effluvium; there are no tests for telogen effluvium and no treatments as such, however once the stressor event is over the hair usually regrows as before.
Hypothyroidism; an underactive thyroid can lead to the body producing an insufficient amount of endocrine, the thyroid hormone, that regulates metabolism.
Treatment for hypothyroidism; once the problem is diagnosed with a blood test and/or scan of the thyroid gland, a treatment plan will be developed that may include hormone replacement medication.
Nutritional deficiency; this is a much less common cause of hair loss in children, but deficiencies in biotin, B vitamins or zinc, for example, can lead to hair loss. A balanced and healthy diet should combat any nutrient deficiencies.