On the growing list of long-lasting effects from COVID-19 comes a shocking one: excessive hair loss.
The phenomenon is especially common among long-term COVID patients, who continue to experience symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath weeks or months after recovering from the first infection. However, tall COVID patients are often surprised by the hair loss symptom.
“It’s extremely disturbing, and it can certainly surprise people,” he says Jonathan Shammash, MDan internist at Hackensack University Medical Centerwhich treats hundreds of post-COVID patients on its COVID-19 Recovery Center. “These patients may have thought they were recovering and finished. But hair loss may also be associated with other symptoms and signs of post-COVID syndrome.”
Hackensack Meridian Health Doctors see “a number of patients” experiencing hair loss after COVID infection, reflecting major trends, says dermatologist Alexis Young, MD
About 22 percent of patients admitted due to COVID-19 deal with excess hair loss within six months of discharge, according to 2021 research. “At the beginning of the pandemic, no one expected to see this,” says Dr. Young. “Most people are surprised when I tell them they can get hair loss after a stress on the body.”
The root of the problem
Healthy people shed about 50 to 100 hairs every day, often without noticing it. It is part of a normal cycle in which the hair follicles alternate between “resting” and active growth phases.
However, excessive hair loss can occur after a major physical or emotional stress factor such as fever, illness, pregnancy, surgery or grief that disrupts the normal hair growth cycle and forces more hair into the trimming phase. “It is not specific to COVID, but very common with COVID,” explains Dr. Young.
Drs. Young and Shammash also believe that an overload of inflammation in the body from COVID-19 is part of the equation. Even the psychological stress of having the virus, along with enduring the pandemic itself, can contribute.
“Patients with long-term COVID may have persistent inflammation that causes a variety of symptoms, and one can be this type of hair loss,” says Dr. Shammash.
Recipe for patience
It can take time for the body to recover from a severe COVID-19 infection and for hair to grow back.
“It’s a very long process,” says Dr. Young. “I say to the patients, ‘You will not be bald. It will grow again. ‘ It is important not to stress about it, because it can actually make it worse. ”
She notes that post-COVID hair loss typically shows up two to three months after infection and can continue for several months. Regrowth happens slowly and it takes up to 18 months for the hair to look more normal again.
After seeing a doctor to rule out other causes, including anemia or thyroid problems, those who are concerned about significant hair loss should go back to the basics by:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid unnecessary stress
- Take supplements if your doctor recommends it
Next steps and resources:
The material provided through HealthU is for informational purposes only and should not replace your physician’s advice. Always consult your doctor for individual care.