If you have had COVID-19 or know someone who has, side effects can continue for months after recovery. If one of those side effects is hair loss, you should know that you’re not alone.
As the global medical community continues to learn more about the COVID-19 virus and its long-term impacts on the human body, hair loss has been reported after patients have recovered from the virus. While there is no direct correlation between the virus and hair loss, many patients have reported thinning hair or hair loss as visits to hair loss doctors and dermatologists have increased. So, what is the connection?
Does COVID-19 Cause Hair Loss?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), hair loss is not caused by COVID-19. The CDC website lists many symptoms of the novel coronavirus, including fever, chills, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell, among other signs, but hair loss is not a symptom of COVID-19. The CDC does acknowledge that the list does not include all possible symptoms and will be updated as more information becomes available. So why are so many COVID-19 survivors reporting hair loss?
Stress, Medications, and Hair Loss
Stress-related hair loss is known as telogen effluvium, which causes the loss of up to 300 hairs per day, or 3-6 times the average amount of daily hair shedding. Telogen effluvium is caused by emotional or physical stress, including sickness and trauma. Since the body does not consider hair growth to be essential, growth stops when the body experiences distress or trauma, explains Dr. Susan Massick, a dermatologist at Ohio State University.
The ongoing emotional and mental impact of the pandemic itself causes stress-related hair loss in people who haven’t contracted the novel coronavirus. For those who suffer from COVID-19, losing one’s hair is an unfortunately added insult to injury. The coronavirus plays havoc with a person’s physical well-being, and the effects of the virus during and after recovery can be devastating and long-lasting. The immense physical stress and trauma that the virus inflicts upon the patient induces telogen effluvium.
The telogen phase of hair growth is when the hair rests and then falls out, to be replaced by new hair during the anagen phase. Many common medications can cause telogen effluvium and interrupt the natural hair growth cycle. Anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, birth control pills, epilepsy medications, acne treatments, and cancer-fighting medications can cause telogen effluvium. Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug once considered as a COVID-19 treatment option, can also cause hair loss.
Preventing Hair Loss During the Pandemic
While stress is an expected part of everyday life, the stress brought on by the ongoing pandemic is anything but typical. The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of most people. To help reduce your chances of hair loss due to emotional stress, you can take the following preventative steps:
- Adopt a Nutrient-Rich Diet
- Reduce Emotional Stress
- Improve Your Health
One recommendation to help avoid hair loss is through a healthy diet that’s heavy on protein and vitamin supplements, including vitamin D, vitamin C, and biotin. It also advised that patients quit smoking.
Try to reduce your stress. Take time each day to meditate, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Spend time in quiet contemplation or do something that relaxes you, such as reading, cooking, or taking a walk. Disconnect from social media and the TV.
While recovery from COVID-19 can take weeks or even months, it’s essential to focus on your overall health. Get plenty of sleep, improve your diet, and exercise. If you need to, consult a physician to guide your recovery.
Long Term vs. Short Term
It’s important to remember that stress-induced telogen effluvium is only temporary. While the hair growth cycle can take anywhere from four months to a year to fully restore itself, it is not a long time. The condition is not permanent, and your hair will begin to regrow.
Hair Replacement Options
Permanent hair restoration options are available for patients whose hair loss isn’t related to telogen effluvium. RHRLI uses the most advanced FUE (follicular unit excision) system, the ARTAS® robotic hair transplant system. The ARTAS® system uses advanced digital imaging and intelligent technology to restore your natural appearance, transplanting your hair during the procedure. To learn more about the ARTAS® system, hair restoration in general, or set up a free virtual consultation, call (516) 218-1876 today.