Is Stress Causing Hair Fall In Kids?

Are you shocked to see clumps of hair on your child's hair brush? Before you head to the doctor or decide to visit a trichologist, know that stress can lead to hair loss, even among children.

By Dr Shuba Dharmana

Is Stress Causing Hair Fall In Kids?

When Hema ran a brush through her seven-year-old daughter Riya's hair, she was shocked to find bunches of fine hair stuck to the brush. Hema had always been proud of her little one's lustrous locks. But, on closer examination, she noticed that the child's hair was not looking glossy at all. In fact, Riya's hair felt rough to the touch, not smooth and silky. And why was her daughter experiencing such severe hair fall? 

Hema ensures that her child eats healthy, nutritious food. So, she is sure that there is no nutritional deficiency in her daughter's diet. Something else had to be the root cause, the worried mother felt. 

Turns out, Hema's instincts were correct. Gentle questioning revealed that Riya was being bullied at school. The child was greatly distressed and stressed. This had led to the hair fall. 

How stress affects children

Did you know that a poor diet is not the only reason for hair fall in children? Stress too can play a role. Yes, you heard that right. Children too experience stress and it can lead to severe hair loss in some cases. 

The other causes for hair fall or hair loss in children include:

  • Fungal infections of the scalp
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Alopecia Areata where hair falls out in small patches
  • A medical condition called Trichotillomania where children pull out their own hair
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Hormonal imbalances  

Alopecia Areata: This is a condition where one’s immunity attacks one’s own hair follicles causing bald spots. These spots usually go away on their own in six months to a year. However, fresh patches may appear or, it may progress to include larger areas and cause complete baldness. This condition may be treated with steroid ointments or injections at a dermatologist's office and sometimes, with minoxidil. Some studies also indicate that stress can cause Alopecia Areata in children.

Fungal infections: Fungal infections need to be treated with antifungal medicines as well as antifungal shampoos and ointments prescribed by a dermatologist. These are contagious and can spread from one person to another person through sharing of towels, bed sheets, pillow covers, or accessories such as combs. So, when your child has a fungal infection, ensure that you dispose of nail clippings carefully. Make sure you keep combs, bed linen and towels separate till the infection clears. 

Stress and anxiety can sometimes lead children to develop habits like fingernail biting, thumb sucking and hair plucking. Older children pluck out eyebrows, eyelashes as well as hair, in response to anxiety and psychological stress. Over time, this can lead to hair breakage and bald spots.

Stress from family issues: At times, stress in children can be caused by issues like parental separation or toxic parental conflicts. This can also affect hair growth in children. The negative effects are more evident if the stressful situation lasts for a long time. In fact, it has been seen that prolonged stressful situations induced more hair fall than single stressful episodes, especially in children.

Some other factors for hair fall

Apart from the afore-mentioned aspects, there can be other issues that cause hair fall in children. Like the following:  

  • Illness: Prolonged illness or hospitalisation and certain illnesses like typhoid also lead to hair fall in children. This condition is known as Telogen Effluvium, which is a form of temporary hair loss due to stress, shock or a traumatic event.
  • Nutrition deficiencies: Deficiencies in B complex, biotin and Zinc can also lead to hair fall. Hence, ensure that your child eats a balanced diet rich in vitamins, essential amino acids, protein, zinc and calcium. This is essential to overcome hair fall due to nutritional deficiencies.
  • Hormonal changes: Wherever endocrine problems or hormonal imbalances are suspected, keep in mind that there must be a proper assessment done first. Consult an endocrinologist to rule out thyroid and other deficiencies.

In addition to these medical conditions, tight hairstyles like braids can also lead to hair fall. In toddlers, the hair fall could be caused by fungal infections or hairstyles that cause the hair to be tightly pulled or rubbed against for example, the car seat or the crib. Keep in mind that nutritional deficiencies also need to be investigated and ruled out.

The author is a Dermatologist, Lejeune Medspa, Bengaluru.

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