The latest emerging complication of covid is hair fall…lots and lots of hair fall. According to experts, any type of stress (emotional or physical) associated with COVID-19 can cause hair fall, which is actually reversible and is medically termed as telogen effluvium (1). There are many people who have reported post covid hair loss as a lingering effect of this horrible disease. Post-covid hair fall develops about a couple of months after the stress experienced with this disease, such as high fever, surgery and not to mention the emotional distress it causes.
However, hair fall is not included in the symptoms of COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2); but there is strong evidence to suggest that post-covid hair fall is a long-term effect from this disease.(3)
Post-Covid Hair Fall in the ‘Long-Haulers’
The term “long-haulers” is used for those people who have recovered from COVID-19 and continue to suffer from lingering after effects of this disease even months after the recovery.(3) There are many covid survivors who have posted on social media regarding their hair loss even months after recovering from COVID-19. According to a survey, it was shown that more than 35% respondents suffered from hair fall after they had had COVID-19.
According to a dermatologist, there was an increase in the patients suffering from hair fall after more than a month of the initial lockdown in New York. According to this dermat, there has been about a 25% increase of patients with hair fall; especially those with existing hair disorders. Post-covid hair fall may not be documented as a symptom or side effect of COVID-19 on primary medical sites; however, there is no doubting that the hair fall is one of the potential complication or side effect or symptom resulting from COVID-19.
Stress of the Pandemic/COVID-19: Causes of Post-Covid Hair Fall(3,4)
Stress of the pandemic or COVID-19 is believed to cause the hair loss from this disease more than the actual novel Coronavirus being the direct cause of hair fall. Also, there is no evidence that the virus itself is the cause of post-covid hair fall; but the emotional and physical stress that a COVID positive patient goes through can cause telogen effluvium, which is a reversible hair loss condition. The condition is said to develop a few months after any major stressful event and the person’s hair is shifted to the resting phase or telogen phase of hair growth cycle that results in hair fall.(5)
Whenever there is a huge shock to the human body with a disease or any emotional trauma, then the body shuts itself down and concentrates on the vital functions only. Hair growth is not considered a vital function when compared to other body functions, and this is the reason why there is hair shedding after recovering from COVID-19.
Telogen effluvium or temporary hair loss caused by stress can be diagnosed after excluding other causes of hair fall.(5) Other potential causes of hair fall are nutritional deficiencies, thyroid problems, which can be ruled out with a simple blood test.
The patient’s personal life is also assessed to look for any stressful or traumatic events, such as hospitalization from COVID-19 or any death of family member from COVID-19.
Dealing with Post-Covid Hair Fall: Diet, Lifestyle, Supplements; What Helps You?
Normally everyone loses about 100 hairs in a day and this is completely normal.(6) When a person is having Telogen effluvium, then it can cause a loss of about 300 hair strands every day till 6 months, which can be a source of great anxiety and distress.(7) Extreme hair fall causes a lot of grief in patients, as it affects their appearance and self confidence.(8) However, telogen effluvium is a temporary condition and the hair fall is completely reversible, which is great news. One has to be patient for the hair to grow back into its former glory in terms of length and thickness. The hair growth is very slow and telogen effluvium resolves slowly and it can take about 6 months to a year also for hair to get back to normal.
It is tempting to try various hair supplements when going through telogen effluvium; however, they need not necessarily give you the results that you are looking for.
What you can do for managing the post-covid hair fall is focusing on a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet and managing your stress levels. These things go a long way when it comes to get your hair to be healthy and grow back again post-covid. It is also important to avoid smoking when dealing with post-covid hair fall.(9)
Patients suffering from post-covid hair fall need to understand that this condition is only temporary and their hair will grow back eventually, albeit slowly. So they should relax and focus on eating healthy and sleeping on time, as stressing about hair fall will only lead to more hair fall and this is such as vicious circle.
Post-covid hair fall, though may not be officially listed as one of the covid symptoms or complications, is a real thing experienced by many covid survivors. There is no evidence that the actual Coronavirus causes the hair fall; but it is highly likely that the post-covid hair fall occurs as a result of the beating the body takes in fighting this disease and the emotional and physical stress is the cause of hair loss in covid patients. The patient should be reassured that this hair loss is only temporary and by following a healthy lifestyle, the hair grows back to what it was pre-covid. Stressing about post-covid hair fall will only cause more hair loss and anxiety; so better to let nature take its course and wait patiently for the hair to get back to its former healthy self.