Grey hair in children: “I noticed a strand of grey hair on my daughter. What should I do?”

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Grey hair in children may seem worrisome. However, these are the three main reasons why there is premature greying of hair.

The day before, Stephen, a good friend of mine was a bit preoccupied. He was not paying attention to what he was eating, so I asked what was wrong. Turns out, his 3-year-old daughter had a strand of grey hair. And that worried Stephen. Greying of hair in children is not common, or so he thought. 

Premature grey hair in children

Stephen is not the only parent worried about grey hair in children. There are a lot of myths associated with grey hair in children and Stephen could not decide what to believe in. Thankfully, he decided to consult a doctor instead of believing in everything he heard. 

When there is grey hair in children or even in adults, it is termed as canities. There are many types of canities, although broadly speaking, it is a loss of pigmentation in hair. So, the pigment melanin decreases or is absent in hair, causing grey or white hair.

Many different conditions cause greying of hair. However, the manifestations are different. Here are the three main categories/reasons why this happens:

1# Genetics

If you have had a premature greying of hair, chances are that your child will have that. Greying of hair is a hereditary condition that is passed on from the parents to the children. This is not an indicator of health. It just means that the hair is grey, that’s it! 

It is also seen as a patch in pigment disorder – vitiligo. In addition, it is seen in some less common conditions that run in the family, like tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis and Waardenburg syndrome. In such cases, there are many other symptoms besides greying of hair, so hair is the last thing a parent would be worried about. 

2# Deficiencies

A deficiency of Vitamin B12, commonly associated with pernicious anaemia also causes premature greying of hair. This vitamin is found in animal products like fish, meat, milk, but is also fortified in cereal and other foods. A proper intake of this will correct the condition.

3# Endocrine disorders

Under or over functioning of the thyroid gland, causing hypo or hyperthyroidism may cause premature greying of hair. This is easily assessed by a blood test, and your paediatrician would be able to tell you more about it. 

Things that do not cause greying of hair

Greying of hair in children is seen in many conditions, however, most of them are rare. That said, there are some common misconceptions about the condition, and here are 3 things that do not cause greying of hair:

  1. Stress. Thought stress in children should be rare, it isn’t so. However, this is not the cause of grey hair in children. That said, if you can help your child deal with stress, it will improve his concentration and performance at school and in life. 
  2. Heart conditions. A common myth suggests that greying of hair happens when there is a lack of blood supply to the scalp. And one of the reasons for this happening is an unhealthy heart. This is nothing but a myth, and if you find a grey strand of hair in your child, don’t be too stressed about his heart.
  3. Lice: Lice and nit are common in children, especially in the school-going age. While it requires treatment, it is not a cause of grey hair in children. 
  4. Lack of hair oil. Hair oil is commonly used by South Asians. Not applying it may cause greying of hair according to a myth. This is nothing but a rumour, and dermatologists actually advise against the use of any hair oil. 

So mums, if your child is healthy, growing normally but you find a single strand of grey hair on him, don’t freak out. It may be nothing. But if you still have your doubt, you should consult a doctor. 

Also, read Walking pneumonia: A mum’s guide to dealing with it

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