Alopecia in children is not a very common problem. It is estimated that it only corresponds to 1% of pediatric consultations. However, this should not be downplayed, as it is a very distressing condition for the child and his parents.
It must be said that this condition can be a temporary or permanent problem. Despite this, do not wait to consult with the specialist if any abnormality is detected in the hair or scalp. As is often the case, early treatment improves expectations.
What is alopecia in children?
Alopecia in children occurs when there is a noticeable disproportion between the hair that falls out and the new ones that are born. The most obvious sign that this occurs is the presence of areas of the head where there is no hair. What is known in popular culture as “bald.”
It is called physiological hair falling to cases where the loss is normal. The common thing is that the child loses between 100 and 150 hairs a day and that, in the same way, the new hair replaces the one that is lost.
If this renewal process does not occur, there is alopecia. For this reason, areas of the head without hair begin to be seen. According to the way it is presented, it can be congenital, if it is present from birth; or acquired, if it arises later.
Likewise, it is called “scarring” when there is irreversible damage to the hair follicle; and not scar, if the damage is reversible. The vast majority of cases of alopecia in children are non-scarring and therefore, treatable. The causes of the problem are multiple and give rise to various types of alopecia. We will detail it below.
Contact alopecia or “occipital alopecia” occurs in babies. It occurs before 3 months of age and is because, during pregnancy, there is hair that grows and then is lost. The fact that the baby spends a lot of time in contact with the pillow may also play a role. This is a temporary form of baldness.
The alopecia triangular or congenital is present at birth and has to do with a small hairless area, in a triangle, which is located on the side of the head. Sometimes it is on only one side, and sometimes both. Its cause is unknown, and it is irreversible.
Alopecia areata is a problem of autoimmune origin that causes the follicles to stop the production of hair, abruptly. It is believed that situations of stress or emotional suffering affect it.
The child loses hair and also hair all over the body. The course of the disease is uncertain and can lead to total hair loss or full recovery.
Traction alopecia and trichotillomania
Traction alopecia, or traumatic alopecia, is a form of baldness that is caused by the use of very bulky hairstyles, which cause tension in the scalp and can end up pulling the hair.
For its part, trichotillomania is a form of alopecia in children, of psychological origin. It is a kind of tic by which the little one pulls his hair, to the point of taking it off, usually as a manifestation of anxiety. This leads to a specific area of the head being completely depopulated.
In this case, the reason for the hair loss is in a fungus called ringworm. The little one gets it from contact with an animal or another child with this problem. The usual thing is that it affects specific areas of the scalp and leads to hair loss in that area.
This type of alopecia in children requires medical treatment. Often, a topical drug is prescribed and sometimes oral medications. It is usually completely overcome.
Alopecia from diseases or treatments
There is a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which produces an extra layer of oil on a child’s scalp. Because of this, the hair follicles do not develop normally, and this causes hair loss very easily. Proper treatment solves the problem.
On the other hand, some health conditions favor hair loss. If there are nutritional deficiencies or anemia, this problem is common. The endocrine diseases and some chronic diseases have the same effect. However, controlling it causes hair loss to stop.
Children who receive chemotherapy treatment for cancer lose hair constantly. This is solved after finishing the application of the drugs.
What to remember about alopecia in children?
There are several types of alopecia in children, and these are classified based on their cause and how they develop. In any case, it is better to seek professional care with your doctor or dermatologist, since proper treatment can reverse it in many cases.
The choice between one therapeutic approach or another will vary according to the origin of the alopecia and the age of the child. In many cases, it resolves over time, although there is no intervention. Anyway, it is necessary to apply basic care, such as good nutrition and the use of appropriate products.