My toddler has always had very thin hair and I wonder why this is so. It is also brown in colour. Is there something in her diet that can change this? Mary
In most cases, the texture, thickness and colour of hair of an individual, particularly a toddler, is inherited from a parent. If the hair was thick and became thin recently, then it is a matter of concern.
Hair fall in toddlers can be due to fungal infection of the scalp or poor scalp hygiene. Excessive dry scalp can lead to hair fall, as well as light colouration and even premature greying as the child grows older. Using a comb with harsh bristles, use of hot water for hair wash, use of shampoos with harsh chemicals for washing the hair, tight braids or ponytails, are some of the other reasons. A child may pull hair unnecessarily as a mannerism, or for attention, or due to stress, leading to patchy hair loss.
Alopecia areata is a congenital condition leading to hair loss in patches or whole. Malnutrition, particularly deficiency of vitamin B complex, zinc and protein or excess of Vitamin A has hair loss as one of the manifestations. Malnutrition can also make the hair thin, as well as brown.
Hypothyroidism can cause dry and sparse hair. Liver and kidney disorders are serious conditions causing hair loss. As such hair colour can change over time in a child’s growth.
It is advisable to keep the scalp clean, but hot water and shampoos with chemicals should be avoided for this purpose. Oil massage with healthy natural oils like coconut or olive oil is also useful. Hair should be combed softly with no pulling or tugging. Diet should include adequate amounts of proteins, vitamin B and zinc. This can be obtained by whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and eggs, milk and milk products.
If hair loss is recent and excessive, it is better to seek medical advice.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital