The bald truth

RX for readers.

Does wearing a large kippa most of the day prevent the scalp from breathing and possibly lead to hair loss? (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Does wearing a large kippa most of the day prevent the scalp from breathing and possibly lead to hair loss?
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
I have noted that several religious men in my extended family, as well as friends aged 25 to 35 who wear large kippot covering most of their heads, are becoming bald. Does wearing a large kippa most of the day prevent the scalp from breathing and possibly lead to hair loss? If one’s father went bald at a young age, is a man likely to become bald early as well? N.T., Bnei Brak
Veteran Jerusalem dermatologist Dr. Julian Schamroth replies: Although hair loss (alopecia) can be caused by a number of internal disorders, the vast majority of males with hair loss have an inherited gene. In other words, hair loss is a genetic phenomenon. Although it can be a direct, dominant gene passed from father to son, it may also involve multiple recessive genes inherited from grandparents on either side. There is also a gene that causes hair loss in women, although this usually manifests itself at a later age.
In addition, genetic factors will determine the actual pattern of alopecia. Some will suffer hair loss only on the crown, whereas in others, the frontal areas will be affected. Lastly, both the degree of hair loss – mild or severe – as well as the age of onset are also genetically determined.
External factors such as wearing a skullcap – or a wig – do not cause hair loss. Neither does frequent shampooing, excessive sweating or the use of hair dyes. Hair loss due to constant pulling of the hair (known as traction alopecia) is quite common in boys who excessively “twirl” their peyot or girls who have very tight plaited hair.
There are several internal causes of hair loss, including iron deficiency, hormonal disorders and internal diseases. These, however, are rare and beyond the scope of this comment.
There are some therapies for male-pattern alopecia. They include oral therapy (finasteride), topical therapy (minoxidil) and physical therapies such as hair transplantation.
These therapies are best discussed with your dermatologist.
I saw in a pharmacy a new baby formula with “probiotics” that claims to prevent or treat colic. My two-month-old baby, whom I am not breastfeeding, suffers from colic, especially at night. Would this special baby formula help? T.W., Modi’in Pharmaceutical consultant Howard Rice comments: There appears to be no definite evidence that probiotics will completely solve the problem of griping (colic). An article in the American Pediatric Society Journal, while stating that the use of probiotics is not harmful, notes that they can help only if the baby has problems with digesting food (which at any rate is limited to newborn babies).
An Italian study showed that they relieve colic. Probiotics take a while to work and the use of any “gripe mixture” is recommended until they take effect (usually up to a month).
Experts agree that supplements are not a perfect alternative to breastfeeding, which prevents allergy and infection and is also the ideal nutrition. They also agree that it isn’t wise to give probiotics over a period of time, since they have not yet been proven safe. In addition, not all the lactobacilli in probiotic preparations have been tested.
Since we do not know all the mechanisms and reasons for colic, you should try a simple, time-proven remedy based on the anatomy of a newborn. Because of the anatomy of a newborn baby’s stomach, one must hold him so that his right hand is always facing down. This is because his stomach is horizontal and not at an angle as in adults (or older children).
When an older child (or adult) swallows air – as is often done if the baby is sucking milk, particularly from a bottle rather than the breast – the air accumulates in the stomach and goes into the intestine. The resulting flatulence causes considerable pain. This can be avoided by holding the baby on the left arm – with his right arm facing down.
If breast feeding, and he is to be moved to the other breast, he should be moved “as is” to the other side without turning him. This way, he will not add more bubbles of the milk and air in his stomach, and when burped on the shoulder to remove air, his right arm should be facing down; he will then quickly and effectively bring up the air, which will not be lodged in the stomach. A baby with a lot of gas in his stomach, when twisted and turned, eventually brings it all up with the air and coagulated milk.
Try this method of holding the baby to see if it helps. Since the use of the probiotic formula takes a month or so to be helpful, and since usually after three months the colic problem resolves itself, you may not need the formula at all. If the problem is not resolved, you could always try the special formula or – better still – ask your pediatrician.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to, giving your initials, age and place of residence.