Covid-19 & Hair Loss

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Is hair loss a post-covid-19 symptom? Here’s what you need to know.

When recovering from covid-19, the array of symptoms can be tough to deal with. Loss of taste and smell, debilitating fatigue and shortness of breath are just a few effects that can linger during post-COVID recovery. But what if a sudden and unexpected symptom you’re experiencing isn’t even listed on official medical sites? The symptom in question: hair loss. So, can coronavirus really cause hair loss, or is it just co-incidence?

Post-covid hair loss is common

After battling with a whole host of symptoms that COVID-19 can bring, you are no doubt left feeling exhausted. You are aware of the usual post-recovery symptoms, but suddenly find yourself with an alarming new symptom: your hair is coming out in clumps. Of course, you do a quick google search to see if it is related to coronavirus and find…not much. Now, in an already post-covid exhaustion state, you feel further anxiety at having no answers. What could be going on?

Losing unusual amounts of hair after suffering from coronavirus is much more common than you might think. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. According to a recent study, 25% of covid long-haulers suffer from unexpected hair loss. In fact, it is one of the top-five effects following the virus. But if you look at the list of post-covid symptoms on the NHS website, you won’t find hair loss anywhere. So why is there so little information out there when a quarter of COVID patients are affected?

The COVID-19 and hair loss link

If you ask your GP if your hair loss is caused by coronavirus, it is unlikely they will be able to confirm. As the virus is so new, it is simply not fully understood yet. The question of whether COVID-19 attacks hair follicles has not been researched, but overall, scientists don’t believe there is a direct link. However, it is concerning that post-covid hair loss sufferers feel ignored and can’t find answers. So, what could be going on?

Any severe stressor on the body, whether emotional or physical, can lead to hair loss. Experts say that it is a common side-effect following a virus due to the extreme stress that it puts on the body. When you think about the pandemic, not only does coronavirus put physical stress on the body, it has been an immense emotional weight on everyone’s shoulders too. The medical term for post-virus hair loss is ‘telogen effluvium’ and it is believed to be what COVID ling haulers can experience.

Telogen Effluvium explained

Typically, a person can lose around 100 hairs a day, however telogen effluvium can cause around 300 hairs to be lost per day. Doctors describe this condition as more like ‘hair shedding’ than hair loss and it can occur around 3-6 months post viral infection.

Telogen effluvium (TE) causes hair to be lost because it disrupts the hair cycle. Hair growth has 3 distinct phases: the anagen phase (growth), the catagen phase (transitional) and the telogen phase (resting). When suffering from TE, more hairs enter the telogen phase which means they are ready to be shed, resulting in more hairs being lost than usual. The condition is temporary and tends to resolve within 6 months.

How to treat Telogen Effluvium

Although TE is temporary, it can take a while for your hair to regain the same fullness. After all, the stress of both a virus and sudden hair loss can be emotionally draining. There is unfortunately no magic bullet to speed up recovery, however there are some dietary and lifestyle tips to support you:

• Improve your diet
It sounds like a cliché, but a diet full of nutrient-dense foods really does support your physical and mental health in so many ways. Eating a ‘rainbow’ of different fruits and vegetables, and adding in healthy fats and proteins is a great way to boost up your vitamin and mineral levels

• Have a gentle hair-care routine
It might be worthwhile adopting a gentler styling routine whilst you recover. Avoid using any hair dyes or over styling with straighteners and curlers for a short period whilst your hair regrows.

• Use specific shampoos from your pharmacy
Shampoos containing minoxidil can encourage hair to remain in the anagen (growth) phase for longer. The downside is they can be expensive and they stop working once you stop using it.

• Relaxation
Following a virus, your body has been through the mill! Any time you can add in relaxation to your day promotes wellbeing. Even just 5 minutes of meditation or a 10 minute yoga routine can move your body from CAN chemistry (cortisol-adrenaline-norepinephrine) to DOSE chemistry (dopamine-oxytocin-serotonin-endorphins).

• Join a support group
If you are feeling the emotional toll that hair loss can bring, talking to others who are going through the same thing can help. It is important to have a support network so that you feel less alone.

The key takeaways

Sudden and unexpected hair loss following coronavirus can be alarming. Despite no clinical data directly linking hair loss to the virus, it is clear that it is a common side-effect of any trauma to the body. With a quarter of COVID long-haulers experiencing hair loss, it is important the topic is spoken about so people are reassured that it is normal and temporary.
If you have been experiencing hair loss after coronavirus, it could be TE to blame. However, it is worth talking to your GP to discount any other causes, such as thyroid disorders or iron deficiency.