Like older children and adults, toddlers too experience dry and itchy scalp conditions. Determining the origin of the problem is the first step in treating the condition. While your toddler may not be able to verbalize his symptoms, examining his scalp can help you determine if his condition requires a trip to your pediatrician’s office.
Toddlers seldom have the self-control to keep themselves from scratching every itch. This frequent scratching may be your first clue that something is bothering him. Upon close examination, you may see flaking skin, raw patches, small bumps and redness. The itching can range from mild to intense, depending on the cause and the extent of your toddler’s condition.
Toddlers may develop the same scalp conditions that plague teens and adults, but some conditions occur more frequently in this younger age group. Ringworm of the scalp is common in toddlers. If your child has ringworm, you may notice round areas of skin where the hair is broken off. These patches may enlarge or expand gradually. Rashes, eczema and other forms of dermatitis can also lead to itching and flaking.
Contact your doctor if your child experiences persistent itching or if the area of his scratching appears infected. Some causes of scalp itching and dryness are contagious. For example, minimize your child’s chances of spreading ringworm by obtaining medical care if you suspect this problem. Shampoo his hair regularly and keep his clothing, towels and hairbrushes away from other children and adults to help prevent the spread of this contagious fungal infection.
While ringworm requires a prescription medication, you may be able to treat other causes of itching and flaking with home care. You may minimize outbreaks of allergic dermatitis by eliminating the use of certain shampoos and skin products. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using only gentle, fragrance-free soaps and cleansers. Avoid using hot water, which tends to be drying. Moisturizing ointments may help reduce itching and flaking. While certain nonprescription creams and ointments may help reduce the appearance of eczema, it is important to consult your doctor before using topical corticosteroid creams and ointments on your toddler’s skin.
Prescription medications for ringworm include griseofulvin and terbinafine hydrochloride, both oral medications. Your child may need to take the medication for six weeks or more. Medical treatments for eczema and other types of rashes may include topical steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics and oral corticosteroids.