Hair Loss

Hair loss (alopecia) can occur in patches or throughout the scalp. The causes are many, including ringworm.

Causes of hair loss that don’t require medical treatment include:

  • Newborn hair loss. The hair of many newborns falls out during the first few months of life. This baby hair is replaced by permanent hair.
  • Rubbing. Babies from 3 to 6 months of age commonly rub off a patch of hair on the back of their head due to friction during head-turning against the mattresses of cribs, playpens, and infant seats. The hair grows back once they start sitting up.
  • Hair abuse. Hair can be lost because of vigorous hairbrushing, hot combs, tight pony tails, or tight braids.
  • Stress. Hair follicles are very sensitive to physical or emotional stress. The hair begins to fall out about 3 months (100 days) after a severe stress (such as high fever, severe illness, a psychological crisis, a crash diet, surgery, or even childbirth). The hair falls out from all parts of the head over the next 3 or 4 months. After the hair stops shedding, it takes another 6 to 8 months for all of the hair to grow back. The whole cycle takes about 12 months. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium.

Some causes of hair loss should be seen by a healthcare provider:

  • Ringworm of the scalp is a fungus infection that causes round patches of hair loss that slowly increase in size. Hair loss may spread to other parts of the scalp if it is not treated with oral anti-fungus medicine (available only by prescription). The hair will grow back after treatment.
  • Some children feel compelled to pull their hair out. This is called trichotillomania. The hair loss is patchy, and you can usually see broken hairs.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call your child’s healthcare provider during office hours if:

  • You suspect ringworm of the scalp.
  • You have other concerns or questions about hair loss.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-19
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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