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Post-COVID hair loss

‘Shedding’ light on this lesser-known symptom.

Article Author: Wesley Roberts

Article Date:

photo for Post-COVID hair loss article

Most people with COVID-19 recover within weeks of coming down with the illness, but some experience a wide range of symptoms well beyond their diagnosis date.

These post-COVID-19 conditions are known as “long COVID-19,” “long-haul COVID-19,” or “chronic COVID-19.” And one of the most recent long-COVID-19 symptoms patients are “shedding” light on is alopecia, also known as hair loss.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “telogen effluvium,” or shedding, occurs when more hairs than normal enter the shedding phase of the growth lifecycle at the same time, usually due to a person experiencing trauma.

“It’s estimated that of the 10% to 30% of people who develop long-COVID-19 symptoms, about 20% of them will have hair loss issues,” explained Michelle Aquino, DO, hospitalist at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville.

Stumped on the clumps?

High stress and inflammatory changes from a COVID-19 infection can lead to hair loss,” said Dr. Aquino. “We know emotional stress is at an all-time high during the pandemic, and the body experiences many changes during a COVID-19 infection, offering two explanations for post-COVID hair loss.”

Some people are noticing it two to three months after having an active COVID-19 infection, which is the typical time frame for hair loss following a fever or other illness.

A study from AAD shows reported incidents of telogen effluvium increased by over 400% from December 2019 to August 2020. Based on what scientists know right now, it’s likely stress or fever causing hair loss, and not the COVID-19 infection itself.

Is it forever?

Losing 50 to 100 strands of hair a day is normal, but when hair is coming out in clumps, it becomes more concerning.

“It’s expected that hair will stop shedding and return to normal within six to nine months,” explained Dr. Aquino. “However, don’t wait that long to see a primary care physician. If you’re having any symptoms more than four weeks after a COVID-19 infection, get an evaluation from your doctor.”

Preventing post-COVID hair loss

One of the best (and most obvious) ways of preventing post-viral hair loss is by preventing COVID-19 infection upfront.

COVID-19 vaccines remain the No. 1 way to prevent infection,” emphasized Dr. Aquino.

If you need some other remedies to keep your hair healthy, try:

  • Taking biotin (available over the counter)
  • Decreasing heat and chemical damage from hair dyes, bleach, relaxers, and other products
  • Keeping the scalp clean, moisturized and dandruff-free
  • Decreasing over-manipulation and traction (i.e. pulling your hair into a tight ponytail, bun or braids)
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Drinking plenty of water

“We’re still learning new information every day about COVID-19,” explained Dr. Aquino. “We're hearing hair loss is common post-COVID-19 from people across the country. It can take an emotional toll to experience unique, long-term effects of the illness. Remember to take care of yourself, find online support groups for others experiencing similar symptoms and talk to a mental health provider.

At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information, visit baptistjax.com/covid19. Our physicians are here for you during this time and can diagnose, treat and prescribe medications virtually. Request an online doctor appointment here.

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