Can COVID-19 Cause Hair Loss?

Photo: Pixabay

Another day, another worrisome fact about coronavirus and the disease caused by it! Researchers have now found out increased cases of hair loss in patients who survived COVID-19. This has been prompted by the voices in several social media circles.

What research says about COVID-19 hair loss?

These social media groups are having thousands of members who specifically are suffering from long-term complications after recovery from the pandemic. They have been named as ‘long haulers’’ and these long-term symptoms have been named ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’.

Post-covid syndrome is a combination of or presence of any of the long-term symptoms such as fatigue, low mood, sleep problems, etc. Scrolling through social media apps, you will come across plenty of groups with folks talking about the symptoms that they were experiencing.

One such example is the Facebook Group Survivor Corps. It has thousands of members connected to share their experiences with the virus.

“My hair fall is so enormous that I’ve it up in a scarf to avoid the pain and embarrassment of seeing my hair fall all day long. Whenever I run my hands through my hair, another handful falls,” posted a survivor in this group. Underneath the post, another person was commenting as: “I always feel afraid to brushy my hair because my hair has been falling way too easily and way too much”.

This group was surveyed to determine the incidence and presence of several long-term symptoms. In this survey, more than 1500 persons shared their experiences. 418 respondents among them reported that they had suffered from hair loss after being diagnosed with COVID-19. So, nearly one-third of those survivor participants suffered from hair loss due to COVID-19.

This survey brought the loss of hair due to COVID-19 into the spotlight. Various studies have been conducted after that to understand the incidence of hair loss and the causes of it. A study conducted by the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found out a high frequency of COVID-19 among male patients. Similarly, a report by Cleveland Clinic stated reporting of an increased number of hair loss cases due to COVID-19.

Celebrities have also shared their own experiences. Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a video on Twitter in which she was seen brushing strands of hair out of her head. Her message, according to her, was that she wanted to show how serious COVID-19 was and what it can do to hairs.

How does COVID-19 cause hair loss?

One word answer to this question is ‘stress’. When your body’s health is affected by psychological trauma or physical disease, hair cell division stops, and the hair growth cycle slows down. The purpose of this is to save the energy and nutrients which can be used by vital organs such as the heart and brain.

Consequently, this pushes some hair follicles into a resting phase where they remain for three months and then start shedding away. The medical term for the type of hair loss is Telogen Effluvium. Though it is normal to lose around 100 hairs daily, Telogen Effluvium is when this hair loss becomes more than 300 per day.

What is telogen effluvium?

Telogen Effluvium (TE) can occur after any internal disturbance in the body, be it psychological trauma or physical stress. It is important to note that hair loss does not occur immediately after catching norovirus. This hair loss occurs months or weeks after the infection. The reason and explanation for this lie in the hair growth cycle. Due to the resting phase of hair, telogen effluvium occurs a week or month after exposure to triggering events.

Meanwhile, it is still unclear why some COVID-19 survivors suffer from hair loss while others don’t. The reason for this can be the difference in individual immune and systemic responses.

As it has already been proven that people with certain blood types are particularly more susceptible to catch COVID-19 infection, it may not be an exaggeration to say that the difference in genetics and the immune system is playing a role in determining the susceptibility of a person to suffer from hair loss.

Fever during COVID-19 infection also plays a significant role. High fever can trigger telogen effluvium months later. This is also called ‘post febrile alopecia’. Some experts also have an opinion that hair loss could be more common in survivors suffering from deficiency of Vitamin D3. 

So, until now, many explanations have been presented to understand the mechanism of hair loss in survivors. But this subject needs more research and studies.

Hair loss
Photo credit: Pixabay
Will your hair grow back?

As stated above, it is difficult to understand the mechanism of telogen effluvium. However, there is consensus on the point that telogen effluvium is temporary and your hair will grow back in a couple of months.

What can you do about it?
  • Well, you may be afraid to brush your hair due to the fear of more hair fall. However, dermatologists and hair loss experts say that it is good to continue your normal hair routine.
  • It is OK to brush your hair and it is okay to have a shower. These things will not affect the shedding of hair. Moreover, these daily hair rituals are also necessary to keep your scalp clean and healthy.
  • Doctors say a balanced diet, sound sleep, and stress reduction strategies can be very beneficial in this regard. These stress reduction strategies can be anything that makes you feel happy. Meditation, exercise, and jogging are considered the best kind of stress reduction techniques. Feel free to try them at home!  
  • When your hair does not grow back after some months and you are also not sure about the exact cause of your hair loss, it is important to consult your trichologist. A trichologist is an expert in the matters of hair and scalp. They’ll let you know what is going on in your scalp and hair.
  • If there is no underlying condition such as a thyroid problem, gender pattern baldness, hormonal disturbances, or iron deficiency anemia, telogen effluvium will easily resolve. On the other hand, if you have any of these conditions, you must get them treated.

The bottom line message for you is that to take good care of your hair, adopt stress coping strategies, and know that your hail will grow back. Always consult your dermatologist or trichologist in case you get worried about it. Stay safe!