Reasons for Hair Loss in Children?

Having dealt with my own child losing hair for a period, I wanted to dissect in detail the reasons for hair loss in children. It is important to realize that most people lose around 150 hairs per day as part of the normal hair growth life cycle. However, if you notice far more clumpy hair loss, you need to investigate further. This article will go through some of the medical reasons for hair loss, I have researched most of the common reasons as listed below.

Alopecia areata:

This can cause round patches of hair to fall off the head, it is not well known what causes Alopecia but it is classified as an autoimmune disease in which the bodies immune system attacks hair follicles. Fortunately, damage to the hair follicles is limited and will not cause permanent damage. This condition is most often related to genetics where nearly 20 percent of affected people have a family member with the same problem.

Maybe your Genes
Scientists have identified a gene known as ULBP3 which was found in patients with alopecia areata. The immune system response generated by ULBP3 attracts other cell receptors which are involved in the attack which in turn cause hair loss. If you notice whitening of the hair followed by patchy hair loss, consult your doctor.

Ringworm of the Scalp:

Also known as Dermatophytosis - this is a contagious type of skin rash caused by a fungus. Children often develop ringworm on their scalp leading to red, scaly, a rash which often results in hair loss in the area, however, sometimes the patients will have some of the following symptoms:

  • Red, Scaling on the scalp
  • Hair Loss
  • Blisters
  • Darkening of the skin

There are a few Prescription antifungal treatments options that will be used to treat the scalp, your doctor will usually prescribe your child a shampoo, and oral medication. Please note: It does take a while to recover from Ringworm, some people don't see much improvement until the first month is over.

Alopecia Areata

This is caused by the bodies immune system when it mistakenly attacks its own hair follicles. This disease can occur in both children and adults, and it results in patchy hair loss on the scalp. More recently, Scientists at the Columbia University Medical Center have identified certain immune cells that can be targeted to normal hair growth; This would work by blocking certain pathways using inhibitors which should slow down or block these cells.

Trichotillomania (Hair-pulling)

Children who suffer from trichotillomania have a strong urge to pull their hair, usually with their dominant arm. This could be due to anxiety, stress, or even frustration; Sometimes they would use this type of behavior to gain more attention. It would be wise to seek some form of counseling that could result in a change to negative behavior since people who suffer from Trichotillomania are more likely to get depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Scarring Alopecia (cicatricial alopecia)

Scarring Alopecia is hair loss that is followed by scarring, it is linked to a few rare disorders that actually damage the hair follicle causing permanent hair loss. Some cases are slow in progression, while others can cause alarming symptoms like severe burning and rapid hair loss.

Visit your GP
If you notice your child having any itching, pain, tenderness, or burning on the scalp it would be best to visit your GP. The cause of Scarring alopecia is not well known, however, inflammation of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles have been documented.

Telogen effluvium

This occurs once the normal life cycle of the hair is interrupted - for infants this occurs when their hormone levels drop. In adults, Telogen effluvium is related to stress, fever, and some prescription medicine. It is a primary result of the number of hair follicles dropping off and producing fewer hairs. Most people will notice thinning hair, which may not occur all over.

On a normal head of hair, over 90 percent of hairs are in the growing phase (anagen), and about 5% are moving from growth into the rest phase (telogen). Now imagine what would happen if a larger percentage of hair follicles enter the resting phase, you would simply lose more hair. The cause of Telogen effluvium is usually physiological (normal functions of the body) although stress or anxiety are seen as triggers.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus:

This is a type of autoimmune disease where inflammation and scarring targets the face, scalp, ears, and sometimes other parts body. The disease can cause lesions on the face and scalp (Follicular keratosis) and results in scarring and hair loss due to the. Although this disease is not found very often in children it might be worth checking with your doctor.

Generally, diagnosis is made by scalp biopsy since it can mimic tinea capitis. It is important to mention that children with DLE (Discoid Lupus Erythematosus) be monitored closely for developing SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus) which is a more serious condition.

Medical Study of "Hair Loss in Children"

At a dermatology clinic At Mutah university medical center, 2800 children were seen by doctors, of these children 210 children were suffering from hair loss with over 40% having patchy hair loss. The next most common complaint was a scaly scalp (22.9%), followed by 21.4% having diffuse loss. Only 1 percent of the children reported pain in the scalp.

While looking at the diagnosis, Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp) was seen as the primary cause of hair loss in 40 percent of the children (this was more common in males), alopecia areata was also diagnosed in 26.2% of cases. Trichotillomania Presented in only 7% of cases with the average age of children being 10 years old.



Since the cause of hair loss in children varies greatly, and the severity of symptoms differ in almost every case - it would be advisable to see a pediatric dermatologist if your GP recommends this. Some hair loss issues resolve over time without reason others will require more attention to the underlying cause. Please note, this is not a comprehensive list - there may be other causes of hair loss in children. Always consult your doctor for a second opinion.

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