Children’s Tinea Capitis
Tinea Capitis is an illness caused by fungal infection of the skin of the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes, with a tendency for attacking hair shafts and follicles. It is also called “ringworm of the scalp“. The condition is caused by a fungus that occupies the hair shaft and causes the hairs to break. The naked patch of hair loss is often round and the scalp takes on a black-dotted stubble appearing from hair shafts broken off at the surface. There may also be moderate itching and scaling. The condition is transmitted by contact from one infected child to another through the sharing of combs, brushes, hats, barrettes, pillows and bath towels. Minor bruising of the scalp sometimes provides an entry for the microscopic fungus. Children 10 years of age are more susceptible and boys are more so than girls. Ringworm of the scalp is not threatening. Without treatment, however, the hair fall can be extensive, and some children will develop a boggy, tender swelling of the scalp known as a kerion.
Children’s Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is another common form of patchy hair loss in children. The typical story is the sudden appearance of one or more totally bald areas in the scalp. The child with this condition loses hair in circular patches sometimes up to two inches in diameter. The hair at the lines of these patches is loose, but the peach-colored scalp looks and feels normal, without scaling or inflammation. There may be just a few patches of hair loss or a total absence of body hair. Alopecia Areata is not so dangerous, and children who have it are otherwise healthy. Why the hair shadings out from the roots is still a mystery. What is known is that the condition is not contagious, caused by foods, or the result of nervousness, hyperactive disorders, or psychological stress. In 20% of cases, another family member has been affected. Some patients with this condition will also develop a grid-like pitting of the nails. Fortunately, over 80% children with alopecia areata grow new hair within 12 months. Strangely, the new hair can temporarily be white, but eventually the hair returns to its natural color. This is a much higher resolution rate than is seen in adults with the same condition, so the news is satisfaying.
Children’s Traction Alopecia
Traction Alopecia, or physical damage to the hair, is another common cause of hair loss, particularly in girls. The human hair is quite fragile and does not respond well to the many physical and chemical invasions it has to brave in the name of beauty. Constant teasing, fluffing, combing, washing, curling, blow drying, hot combing, straightening and bleaching can do a number on the fragile hairs, causing them to fall out, especially around the hairline and along the front and sides. In adults, this is not as constant a problem, as the hair has grown in strength and quality over several years, but it can act a problem for our little companions who typically have much thinner, fairer and less dense hair. Styles that apply tension to the hair, such as tight ponytails, braiding, barrettes and permanent waving can also damage the hair. However, one should not estimate that hair loss in one’s child is due to pony tails that are too tight. If hair loss is noted, it is imperative that a physician evaluate the child and rule out other causes. Recommended treatment for children’s traction alopecia is to handle the hair gently, as little as possible, and use natural hair styles. The hair will usually return, but regrowth can be slow. Injured hair follicles do not heal quickly and often take 3 or more months before they are back to their growing phase.