It is normal for kids to shed some hair each day. But certain conditions can cause abnormal hair loss in children. In fact,hair loss in children is estimated to account for 3 percent of visits to the pediatrician.
Just like adult hair, kids’ hair has a fairly predictable life cycle. Each strand of kids’ hair grows actively for two to six years. After that, the hair goes through a resting cycle called the telogen phase. After about three months in the telogen phase, the hair falls out and a new one grows in its place.
The most common cause of hair loss in children is an infection known as tinea capitis. Tinea capitis is a type of ringworm that attacks the hair and causes scaly, ring-like lesions to form. It is a contagious fungal infection, and is commonly spread among school-aged children. Tinea capitis can affect hair of the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes. The area of hair loss is often flaky or scaly, and contains hairs that appear to be broken off at the surface. Most cases of tinea capitis are diagnosed by the appearance of the scalp. An ultraviolet light may be used to confirm the diagnosis. Tinea capitis is treated with antifungal medications and special shampoo for eight weeks. This condition is generally not contagious during treatment.
Hair shaft trauma. Physical stress to the hair, known as hair shaft trauma, commonly causes hair loss in children. Hair shaft trauma can result from consistent pulling of the hair (for example, tight ponytails or braids), excessive friction (like rubbing against a pillow or wheelchair), or by chemical burns to the hair shaft. It can also in occur in children who have trichotillomania, a mental condition that causes people to obsessively pull out their hair. If your child’s doctor suspects hair shaft trauma, he will determine what action is causing it. Once the cause of hair shaft trauma is identified and stopped, hair will usually re-grow. But in some cases, hair shaft trauma can go on long enough to cause scarring, and hair may not grow back.
If you are worried about your child’s hair loss, talk to her pediatrician. The earlier the cause of the hair loss is diagnosed and treated, the more likely the treatment will be successful.