Alopecia areata is a disorder of the autoimmune system that causes hair to fall out in patches. This condition is rarely seen in toddlers under age 18 months but can happen.
Little is known about the cause of alopecia areata but researchers do believe it to be hereditary and more common in families that have a history of eczema, diabetes, hay fever, and asthma. There is also proof that outside factors, such as viruses, could cause the condition.
Children will lose hair for a variety of reasons. Here’s how to tell if your child has alopecia areata. The hair will fall out in round or oval patches. This is much different from the balding that a baby sometimes has from rubbing the back of the head in their crib. The patches will be very smooth with small hairs at the outer edge. Your child's fingernails could also show symptoms. The nail beds in some children with alopecia areata will be dented or ridged.
If bald spots appear that are similar, but have a flaky appearance, it could be a sign of ringworm.
In most cases of alopecia areata, the hair will grow back; however, some will continue to have bouts of the condition for their entire life. Rarely, the body hair will also be affected. In this case, the hair could take years to return.
Although there is no cure for alopecia areata, there are treatments that can help the hair grow back. Depending on the age of your child, a dermatologist may decide to use a topical cortisone cream to stimulate hair growth. If your child is under the age of 18 months, a dermatologist will likely not use such a treatment.
While the condition changes the look of your toddler, chances are that they are unaware of their appearance. And, fortunately, alopecia areata does not affect your child’s health.