There are a number of symptoms that indicate you might have COVID-19. The most common symptoms include having a fever, dry cough, fatigue, and a loss of taste or smell. However, once an individual manages to win their battle against the virus, there can still be some remaining symptoms, even months after they have recovered. One of these symptoms that have been popping up more frequently is the loss of hair.
According to Health Line, hair loss has been reported in people who have recovered from COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source notes hair loss as a potential long-term effect of COVID-19 that’s currently under investigation.
One of the more high-profile examples of hair loss involves actress Alyssa Milano, who took to social media in August 2020 to show her fans large clumps of strands coming out of her brush after running it through her wet hair.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) August 9, 2020
In a similar case closer to home, IOL recently reported on the case of a woman named Azra Khan from Durban, who is also experiencing this phenomenon. Khan said she started to experience hair loss shortly after contracting the virus, which occurred in December 2020.
While she doesn’t know exactly how much hair she has lost, Khan compared her hair loss to that of a patient “undergoing chemotherapy”.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not include hair loss on its list of COVID-19 symptomsTrusted Source, doctors say there’s compelling evidence that it can be a long-term effect from the illness.
While the exact cause of hair loss remains a mystery, many researchers believe stress plays a huge role. In particular, doctors believe that the physical and emotional stress that accompanies COVID-19 can lead to a reversible hair loss condition. This condition is known as telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is caused by a number of stressful factors, including emotional distress, major surgery, or high fever. Of course, recovering from a deadly virus like COVID-19 can also cause significant stress.
According to Dr. Susan Massick, a dermatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, ” “When there’s a shock to the system, the body goes into lockdown mode and only focuses on essential functions. Hair growth is not as essential as other functions, so you end up with hair shedding.”
Telogen effluvium is usually diagnosed through the process of elimination of other potential causes of hair loss. When diagnosing a patient, doctors will often conduct a blood test to rule out a thyroid issue or nutritional deficiency, both of which can also cause hair loss. They may also look at what’s been going on in a patient’s life over the last few months to nail down the stressful event that triggered the condition.
There is, however, a light at the end of this seemingly dark tunnel. Telogen effluvium is temporary, and the hair will eventually grow back. However, it may take a while for your hair to achieve its original fullness and length.
“The stress of hair loss can actually become part of the problem again. The most important thing is to reassure patients that it will get better and they won’t go bald,” added Dr. Massick.