July 4th, 2011
09:46 AM ET

Why does my 4-year-old have gray hair?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Aqila from Minnesota

My 4-year-old son has a gray hair. He was born prematurely and weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces. Now he is around 29 pounds. He had a gray hair few months back (I guess it fell off after couple of months), and now I see another one (different area). Does that imply any deficiencies in his diet?
Expert answer

Thanks for your question. It can be perfectly normal for children to have a gray hair every now and then. However, as you mention, a dietary deficiency may sometimes be to blame.

The most common nutritional problems that cause gray hair in children include anemia (such as from not getting enough iron) and vitamin B-12 deficiency (for example, from a strict vegan diet or poor absorption of vitamin B-12 by the intestinal tract).

Medical issues such as abnormal thyroid levels, problems with the immune system and genetic conditions can also cause premature graying. Treating the medical condition may help prevent more gray hairs from developing.

Your son's prematurity may or may not have anything to do with his gray hair. Without knowing more about his medical background, I can only say that although he started out on the early and small side, his weight is considered to be on the lower end of the normal range for a 4-year-old.

Your pediatrician can advise you whether blood tests or an evaluation by a dermatologist or other specialist might be helpful to determine a potential cause for your child's gray hair.

If your son's health is otherwise good, however, it may be fine to wait and just keep an eye out for more gray hairs before doing any testing - it's quite possible that there won't be any more for the next several years or decades to come.

Good luck!

Follow Dr. Shu on Twitter

soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. Steve

    My first question would be to ask if the mother if she ever dated Anderson Cooper.

    July 4, 2011 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Schuyler

      He's gay, so I doubt it.

      July 4, 2011 at 17:55 | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      Maybe his parents taught him how to read by using the Wall Street Journal.

      July 4, 2011 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
  2. erich2112x

    Why do we 4 year olds have grey hair? Because not only do our parents drive us nuts thinking we can't run from the den to the kitchen without breaking sht, but we also have to compete in this high tech world you created meaning I already have to know how to type.

    July 4, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jesus

      It's gray hair...not grey! I've got gray hair. It went gray during the administration of "W". I blame him entirely.

      July 4, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse |
    • Daisy

      Jesus, both gray and grey are correct spellings. Grey is more commonly used in the UK.

      July 4, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
  3. zooloo

    I would say count your blessing. It's better than being totally bald. Four years old or not, just get a box of Just For Men from your local drug store and the problem is solved. In fact, gray hair adds a bit of wisdom and experience to a four-year old which will help him to find delivering newspapers job a lot easier when he's 7. I just hope he doesn't grow into a cotton ball in a few years

    July 4, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fiona

    Why would any one worry about ONE gray hair at a time? Hair follicles can be damaged, resulting in a hair coming in white. I wouldn't be concerned unless an area of hair started coming in gray.

    I have a male relative who started turning gray in his early teens. He was quite gray by age 20. Just a recessive gene in his family.

    July 4, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. lynnej

    This is a stupid answer. I know two people whom were born with gray hair, one I graduated with. I think it is a DNA thing that makes people unique. No one probably really knows. Just count your blessings that having graying hair is hte least of his problems.

    July 4, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Erisian

    Perhaps this is the E-trade baby who has taken losses from day trading.

    July 4, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Eric

    I've had a small spot of gray hair for as long as I can remember; I may have born with it. I'm 40 now and I still only have a few gray hairs so it's not a big deal at all.

    July 4, 2011 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. BGL

    I have had grey hair since I was a teenager. I have a skunk stripe down my left side. No biggie. I'm used to it.

    July 4, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Terry Brookman

    He is a midget and you are in denial?

    July 4, 2011 at 23:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. marypiper05

    Medical issues such as abnormal thyroid levels, problems with the immune system and genetic conditions can also cause premature graying. Treating the medical condition may help prevent more gray hairs from developing. The types of free samples you can get from "123 Samples" are shampoo, coffee, diapers, medicine, greeting cards and more.

    July 5, 2011 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. katie

    Because you took drugs and have altered your child's DNA.

    July 5, 2011 at 05:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Chris

    I would like to know why I am going gray at 27! Just the sides, luckily, so maybe I'll end up looking like Mr. Fantastic.

    July 5, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. emily

    4 year old
    thats demon
    4 year old with gray hair is obviously old demon in childs body suit

    July 5, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. emily

    thats demon
    4 year old with gray hair is obviously old demon in childs body suit

    July 5, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. hjs3

    Usually it's the mother that blames the child for giving her grey hair...Hmm
    What we have here is great tour de force....

    July 5, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. tee

    My left ball has a gray hair and I am only 38. Should I see a Dr? I am concerned because gray hairs feel differnt then regular ones & do not curl the same. Thanks for any info.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jen

    How can everyone here tell this young mother don't worry because I have greay hair too?
    It is safer to bring these concerns to your pediatrician at your next visit and let a doctor determine what is or is not significant.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. MsW11

    I was born with gray hair, not just one strand but several.. and I'm in my 30's(34) now.. I wouldn't even worry about it. I know that my hair will be 50/50 by the time I reach 40. I have a streak right in my bang area.. It's not unusual when a child grows gray at an early age, try explaining to people that you were born with it! LOL.. I love my gray hair..it's odd but I do.. when you've had it since birth it's common.. what is not common is having 5 wisdom teeth lol... yeah had those too.. another subject tho LOL

    July 5, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Grey headed

    When I was four years old my mother found my first grey hair. Needless to say I was born over fourth weeks and was born at a healthy weight. Although, I had streaks of grey on my very dark hair before the time I was in Jr. High. It looked like I allowed someone to highlight my hair in silver tones.at the age of 25 I was practically grey, since then I have had to dye my hair. Although I have been dying it since 20. But I do have to admit it is in the genes. I have always been noted that I have been very wise at a very young age. I blame my hair 🙂

    July 7, 2011 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Earl Deetz

    That child's brown baby hair says ENERGY but his gray hair says EXPERIENCE.

    He is certain to get the job.

    July 13, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Cagemein15

    I started graying at 13 – I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease the same year. Crohn's patients are notorious for having iron-deficiency anemia and B-12 deficiencies. I have had both, so this article is very helpful to me. It's good to know it was not likely stress related.

    July 13, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. elzhend

    I am surprised no one has suggested vitiligo, it could certainly start in the scalp.

    August 1, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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