Tinea capitis is ringworm of the scalp, caused by a fungal infection that often compromises hair follicles and strands. Tinea capitis infections are the most common cause of hair loss in children and manifests itself as patchy loss with broken strands visible near the scalp. Patches can be round, oval or irregular in shape. You may also notice grey flakes or spots on the scalp. Luckily, an antifungal can clear the infection but must be taken for eight weeks. Your child’s physician may also recommend Nizoral shampoo to be used two to three times per week. When a child is undergoing treatment via oral medication and topical shampoo, they are usually not contagious and can return to school or camp safely – but consult your doctor for recommended routines.
Alopecia areata forms as bald, smooth patches that can appear suddenly and rapidly. This condition occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the hair, affecting about 1 in 1,000 children. After visiting a dermatologist who can prescribe medication to promote hair growth, many children regrow hair within one year. Unfortunately, there is no cure for alopecia areata and no medications are FDA-approved to treat the condition, which means the underlying disease will remain even when or if bald patches disappear. As with adults, trauma can lead to hair loss in children. Tight braids, pony tails and friction are all factors that lead to hair loss, regardless of age. Trichotillomania is a cause of trauma hair loss when the patient excessively twirls hair or plucks strands. Trichotillomania is considered a symptom of a broader obsessive-compulsive disorder. When the trauma stops, hair typically regrows. If you notice abnormal hair loss in your child, contact a physician to rule out underlying medical conditions first. From there, a dermatologist or hair loss professional can help discuss treatment options.