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My Child Has Alopecia. Now What?

My Child Has Alopecia. Now What?

Human hair naturally sheds. It’s normal to lose up to 100 head hairs a day, but if you’ve noticed that your child loses lots of hair every day or they’re starting to develop bald spots, it could be alopecia.

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. While hair loss or “balding” is largely considered a problem that only affects adults, the truth is that certain types of alopecia can strike at any age.

Noticing bald spots or thinning hair on your child’s head can be scary, but you don’t have to figure out what’s happening on your own. Oswald Mikell, MD, is a hair loss specialist at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry. If your child is experiencing hair loss, we can help you find answers.

Identifying the cause of childhood hair loss

There are many possible causes of hair loss. If your child’s hair is falling out, schedule a dermatology appointment to get a diagnosis.

Dr. Mikell and our team review your child’s medical history, ask about their symptoms, and examine their scalp. We look for a number of common conditions, including:

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss. If your child has alopecia areata, their immune system mistakenly attacks their hair follicles and disrupts normal hair growth.

Alopecia areata hair loss often looks like round, smooth bald patches on the scalp. It rarely causes total baldness. Hair that’s lost due to alopecia areata can grow back, and it’s possible that your child’s hair could fall out and grow back multiple times.

About 25% of children with alopecia areata also have symptoms that affect their fingernails and toenails. Your child’s nails may develop white spots or become pitted, grooved, or noticeably more fragile.

Tinea capitis

Tinea capitis, or ringworm of the scalp, is a contagious fungal infection that can cause hair loss in children. The infection causes round or oval-shaped patches of hair loss, and despite the name, the condition doesn’t have anything to do with worms.

If your child has tinea capitis, their scalp may appear scaly. The patches of hair loss are often itchy, too. Sometimes, hair breaks off at the surface of the scalp instead of falling out completely, leaving small black dots on your child’s head where the hairs broke.

Nonmedical hair loss

Sometimes, there’s no medical reason for excessive hair loss. Babies often develop bald spots on the backs of their heads from friction against their mattress or car seat, but hair eventually fills in. Children can also experience hair loss or breakage if their hair is brushed too vigorously or if it’s regularly pulled very tightly into hairstyles.

Treating childhood alopecia

Once the cause of your child’s alopecia is identified, you can find the right treatment. Many types of hair loss are temporary, so alopecia doesn’t necessarily mean your child will continue losing large amounts of hair.

Alopecia areata typically doesn’t require treatment. Although there’s no cure, hair almost always grows back on its own. It may start out white or fine at first, but it usually returns to its natural color and texture eventually.

If your child is diagnosed with tinea capitis, they may be prescribed an oral antifungal medication. Dr. Mikell may also recommend an antifungal shampoo, which can help make the condition less contagious.

Hair loss that’s linked to stress or nutrient deficiencies can improve with lifestyle changes. For example, if stress is the issue, Dr. Mikell can discuss healthy stress management techniques. If hair care is the issue, he can recommend techniques to reduce breakage. Or if diet is the issue, he can discuss pediatrician-approved supplements.

If you think your child is losing too much hair, Dr. Mikell can help. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry today.

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