Some people are surprised to learn that children can be affected by hair loss. Conditions such as alopecia areata, tinea capitis, trichotillomania, traction aloepcia and telogen effluvium can affect children. Most of the very young patients in my practice have alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition which can lead to hair loss in circular patches, or total hair loss (alopecia totalis) or total body hair loss (alopecia universalis).
Children, like adults, develop strategies to cope with their hair loss. These coping strategies change as the child ages. Many children with hair loss find going back to school especially stressful. It’s a time when the coping strategies they have developed are put to the test.
Parents usually tell me if their child is having problems coping with hair loss. When I am concerned about how a child is coping I sometimes ask the child an indirect question. In the months of August and September I frequently ask:
“What would you say to another child who had hair loss and was worried about starting back up at school?”
When most children hear this question, there is a pause. Most children smile or laugh and then look at their parents. Some start their sentence only to pause for an extended period. One child had clearly thought about this in great detail and had developed some useful coping skills. The child answered:
I would tell them ... to be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.
I knew right away that these could not be the original thoughts of the child. Not the words of the parents, the grandparents, the teacher or a friend. I soon learned from the child that these were the words of Dr. Seuss. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the loss of Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991), better known as Dr. Seuss The words in his 46 children’s books impacted millions of children, including at least one child who used these words as a coping strategy for hair loss. Every now and then I find myself quoting Dr. Seuss when talking to children and their parents about hair loss.
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