Hair Loss in Young Children: Causes and Treatments

June 7th, 2017          Written by a Staff Writer at Hair Loss in Women

hair loss in young children

As a parent, you want the best for your child, so anything that affects their health is a cause of major concern for you. One of the conditions that cause parents to worry is hair loss in young children. While their hair loss pattern is usually normal, there are cases when they lose too much hair, which makes many parents think that there is something wrong. In this case, the only way to determine if it is normal or not is to consult a doctor.

Normal Versus Abnormal Hair Loss

In some cases, young children have bald patches on their scalp due to excessive hair loss. Some babies are bald after delivery. This is actually a normal pattern since this will encourage their permanent hair to grow. A bald patch may also be visible at the side or back of the child’s scalp due to occasional rubbing, especially if they constantly lay on a baby seat or mattress. You can expect your baby to grow normal, permanent hair once they know how to sit up and spend more time doing so.

Abnormal hair loss in young children, on the other hand, is commonly caused by ringworm. You will know that your child’s case isn’t normal if you notice that they loses hair significantly without any apparent reason. They may also complain about an itchy scalp, and you notice that they’re fussy. You may also see scaling and redness on the bald patch.

Another sign that your child’s hair loss is not normal is when they have short, bent and lusterless hair strands that are only a few millimeters long. If you notice these signs, then consulting your doctor is the next step.

What Causes Hair Loss in Young Children?

1. Ringworm or Tinea Capatis

This is the most common reason excessive hair loss in young children. This is a contagious fungal infection characterized by patchy bald spots that also come with flaky red scales and black dots on the area where the hair strands break down. This fungal infection does not only affect the scalp’s skin, but also the eyelashes and eyebrows. It also has the tendency to attack the hair follicles and shaft.

The condition takes place when a fungus invades hair shaft, causing each strand to break. The patchy bald spot caused by ringworm is usually round in shape. Scaling and mild itching may also occur. Your child may get it when they come in contact with another child who has the condition. They may get infected with ringworm if they share combs, pillows, bath towels, hats, brushes and barrettes with someone who has it. In rare cases, minor bruises affecting the scalp may also let the microscopic fungus, which triggers the infection, enter the area.

Young children between the ages 3 and 10 are more prone to getting the condition. It was also discovered that boys are more prone to having it than girls. While ringworm is not that harmful to children, failing to treat it may cause them to lose huge amounts of hair. There are even those who suffer from swelling in the scalp.

2. Alopecia Areata

Another cause of hair loss in young children is alopecia areata. This is a non-contagious condition that triggers hair loss when the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Your child most likely has this condition if you notice oval or round patches of hair loss on their scalp. These patches are also often smooth or slick and don’t come with broken or scaling hairs. In more severe cases, hair loss caused by alopecia areata is also accompanied by ridging and pitting of the nails. The good news is that this condition is not life-threatening. In fact, those who have it are actually healthy. It’s not also contagious. It is usually a result of certain foods, psychological stress, hyperactive disorders, and nervousness.

More than 80 percent of those who have Alopecia Areata were also able to grow new hair within a 12-month period. The problem is that the newly grown hairs are temporarily white. The good news is that you can expect each strand to bring back its natural color eventually. There is also a high success rate if you decide to let your child undergo treatment for the condition.

3. Trichotillomania

Hair loss in young children brought on by this specific condition is a result of too much rubbing, twisting, plucking, and pulling of the hair. Symptoms of this condition include patchy hair loss, usually found on the side of the patient’s dominant hand, and broken hair strands of various length. One of the major factors that cause the condition is a stressor in the life of a child. Some examples of such stressors are divorce, birth of a sibling, and loss of a loved one.

Avoid scolding your child whenever you notice that they’re pulling their hair. Instead of scolding him or nagging them, try counselling them. This is useful in helping them deal with the stressor that caused them to develop the unwanted habit of rubbing, twisting, plucking, and pulling their hair.

Check out our page on trichotillomania.

4. Traction Alopecia

Characterized by physical damage affecting the hair, this condition causes the hair to fall out, particularly in girls. It is important to note that the hair is fragile. There are those who do not respond well to chemical and physical substances designed to improve the beauty of each strand. This means that constant teasing, excessive washing, combing and fluffing, hot combing, curling, bleaching, straightening, and blow drying can cause a lot of damage to fragile hair. This triggers the strand to fall out, more specifically in the areas surrounding the hairline, as well as the sides and front.

While this is a rare condition for adults, since the hair tends to improve in quality and strength over the years, it is a common problem for young children whose hair strands are less dense, fairer and thinner. Certain hairstyles also put a lot of tension and pressure to your child’s hair including tight ponytails, permanent waving, barrettes, and braiding. The best way to treat traction alopecia in children is to gently handle the hair. Using natural hairstyles that don’t put each strand into a lot of pressure can also help.

The lost hair tends to grow back eventually. The problem is that the rate of regrowth is often slow. You can’t also expect damaged follicles to heal quickly. You will need to wait for at least three months before your child’s hair will go back to its healthy growing phase.

5. Telogen Effluvium

This condition causes the hairs that are already in their permanent growth phase to go into the resting phase after a child suffers from flu, chronic emotional stress, and high fever. Hair strands often start shedding after 2-4 months of suffering from the condition. This shedding usually lasts for six weeks. Hair loss does not appear in patches; it shows thinning hair all throughout the scalp. You can consult your doctor right after you notice that your child has signs of telogen effluvium. It usually takes around 3-6 months before the hair will re-enter the growth phase. This means that the restoration process is a bit slow.

6. Malnutrition

Hair loss in young children can also be due to lack of nutrition. Since it is necessary for a growing and developing body to get a good supply of nutrients, lack of them may cause children to deal with certain abnormalities such as excessive hair loss. Your child may be lacking in biotin, which is one of the B-vitamins essential in converting carbohydrates into glucose that fuels the body. They may also need more zinc, which is necessary in various aspects relevant to cellular metabolism. Zinc is also essential in your child’s body because it stimulates normal growth and development, especially during childhood and adolescence.

7. Other Potential Hair Loss Causes in Young Children

Aside from the conditions mentioned above, there are also other factors that contribute to hair loss in young children. Some of these are endocrine or thyroid problems, hair abuse, too much rubbing and bacterial infections. Structural abnormalities affecting the hair shaft can also cause dry, and brittle hair that breaks off easily.

Dealing with Hair Loss in Children

If your child suffers from excessive hair loss, then finding the most informed and qualified doctor who will help you in accurately and effectively treating their condition is important. Treating hair loss in children also involves targeting the root cause of the problem, and a qualified doctor or dermatologist can help you with that. If your child has tinea capatis, or ringworm, then the best way to treat is to use topical and oral anti-fungal medications. Griseofulvin is an example of oral antifungal that can help you treat the problem. This is a prescription medication that you should only get from your doctor. You need to let your child take it for up to 8 weeks.

You can also use a selenium sulfide shampoo 2 times a week. This works in shortening the course of ringworm. The good news is that even if the symptoms of fungal infection are visible, you can still let your child go to school right after you start his oral medications. They should also receive at least one washing using the mentioned shampoo to achieve better results.

If your child has alopecia areata, then the use of cortisone injections applied to hair follicles can help. Just make sure that you choose a qualified doctor who can expertly administer the injection.

For telogen effluvium, the most common treatments are topical steroids with middle to high potency rates. You can also use another popular agent designed to treat hair loss in young children called Anthralin. It’s known as a tar-like and synthetic substance that triggers mild skin irritation, which stimulates hair growth.

Additional Tips in Dealing with Hair Loss in Children

Excessive hair loss in young children can be devastating for both the child and his parent. It may be especially traumatic for the child if they see that their hair sheds at an extremely fast and high rate. It may also hamper their self-esteem and confidence, considering its negative impact to their physical appearance. As a parent, here are the things that you can do to help avoid and treat this problem:

  • Consult your child’s doctor right away – This is essential in identifying the root cause of hair loss, and finding the most suitable treatment for it. For instance, if your doctor figures out that the hair loss is caused by ringworm, then they can suggest an antifungal medication.
  • Handle your child’s hair gently – This tip is essential if your child loses hair excessively because of physical damage. You have to treat their hair gently until you notice that it goes back to its normal growth phase. Remember that a child’s hair is more delicate and finer than adults. Thus, it is essential to choose gentle and natural hairstyles and brush their hair gently.
  • If your child pulls their hair out of habit, then avoid focusing too much on correcting the behavior – The best way to handle this problem is to talk to your doctor, so both of you can dig deeper and identify the root cause of their frustration, nervousness or anxiety. Target the root cause of this habit and treat it. Doing so will allow your child to drop the habit automatically.
  • Provide reassurance. As a parent you should be able to reassure your child that their hair will grow back without causing any form of scar. This kind of reassurance coming from you will prevent your child from viewing the problem as an extremely traumatic experience. Note that children and adolescents often find the presence of bald and scaly patches stressful. Reassure your child, or seek the help of your doctor or a qualified counselor to lessen the stress and frustration experienced by your child.
  • Be cautious when it comes to shampooing, brushing and combing their hair. Avoid pulling the hair too hard because this can eventually result in hair loss. Too tight pigtails or ponytails should also be avoided.


Do you have any experience with hair loss in young children? Please comment below.

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