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Can Covid Cause Hair Loss? Fact or Fiction?

Experiencing hair loss can be alarming, and you might be wondering if your recent bout with COVID-19 could be the culprit. It's not just you—studies have linked post-COVID recovery with a noticeable increase in hair shedding. This condition usually appears months after fighting off the virus, which has both men and women searching for answers.

While it's distressing to find clumps of hair in your brush or shower drain, understanding the connection between COVID-19 and hair loss is crucial. Typically, hair regains its volume within 3 to 6 months, but there's more to it than just waiting it out. Let's dive into why this happens and what you should know about this unexpected symptom.

Can Covid Cause Hair Loss?

As you navigate the aftermath of a COVID infection, you might encounter an unexpected symptom: hair loss. It's become increasingly clear that COVID can trigger hair loss in both women and men. What's puzzling is that this hair loss often doesn’t present itself immediately. Instead, you might start noticing it months after recovering from the virus.

When hair loss does set in post-COVID, it typically appears as a shedding spread across the entire scalp. You’re most likely to detect this hair loss while showering or brushing your hair. Though it may be alarming to see clumps of hair in your brush or shower drain, it’s a phenomenon many are experiencing.

Time Frame for Hair Recovery

Understanding the timeline for regrowth is essential. Statistics show that hair loss due to COVID-19 usually develops about 2 to 3 months post-infection. Here's the catch: while your hair should begin to regain its original volume, this process isn't instantaneous:

Time After InfectionHair Growth Stage
2-3 monthsOnset of hair loss becomes apparent
3-6 monthsHair begins to return to fullness

It's important to de-stress during this period. High stress levels can exacerbate hair loss, making a swift recovery less likely.

Identifying Other Symptoms

While hair shedding is a common post-COVID symptom, it’s usually isolated. That means if you're experiencing additional symptoms such as a burning sensation or itchy scalp along with hair loss, you may be dealing with another condition. In such cases, consulting a healthcare professional becomes crucial.

Remember, while COVID-related hair loss is distressing, it's typically not coupled with other scalp conditions. No rashes, white plaques, or burning should be present. If you're experiencing such symptoms or have concerns about the cause of your hair loss, don't hesitate to visit a hair loss specialist for tailored advice and possible treatments.

Understanding the link between COVID-19 and hair loss is just part of managing your health following the infection. Keep informed, stay vigilant about any changes, and prioritize your wellbeing as your body continues to recover.

Recent observations indicate a significant association between COVID-19 and hair loss. In a pivotal study, 22% of patients hospitalized due to COVID experienced excessive hair shedding within six months post-discharge. Hackensack Meridian Health professionals have seen a noticeable uptick in these cases, mirroring global findings that highlight this correlation as a lingering effect of the virus.

To further dive into the statistics reveals startling disparities. A 2022 Journal of Medicine and Life study identified hair loss in nearly half of the COVID-19 patients admitted, none of whom had a history of Telogen Effluvium (TE), the medical term for temporary hair shedding. Among these, 79 were male attributing to 39.9%, while 119 were female, making up 60.1%, covering a broad age spectrum from 18 to 85 years.

GenderNumber of PatientsPercentage
Male7939.9%
Female11960.1%

Despite the concerning nature of these statistics, there's a silver lining. This hair loss is predominantly temporary, and normal hair growth resumes once the initial COVID trigger subsides.

The Geeky Science Behind Covid-Induced Hair Loss

The link between COVID-19 and hair loss goes beyond mere correlation; there's a scientific explanation. During a viral infection, your immune system mounts a defense that may inadvertently affect other body processes. The "cytokine storm," a hyperactive immune response, is thought to play a significant role in disrupting the hair cycle.

Inflammatory responses, which are part of the body's defense mechanism against viruses, trigger overproduction of interferons (IFNs). Although IFNs are critical in fighting infections, their presence has been associated with the onset of hair loss. It's important to note that IFNs are not solely responsible for hair loss; it's rather the cumulative effect of inflammation and immune activation that disturbs follicle cycles.

Hair loss following COVID-19 is akin to patterns seen in other viral infections where immune cells and inflammatory responses are heavily implicated. This connection echoes through cases of hair loss post-infection with other viruses, such as cytomegalovirus and swine flu, where similar mechanisms are at play.

Other Factors Contributing to Hair Loss During Covid

Stress and Anxiety

It's no secret that stress and anxiety have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty and fear related to the virus, coupled with social isolation and economic concerns, have substantially raised stress levels. Chronic stress is a known trigger for telogen effluvium, where stress hormones interrupt the natural hair growth cycle. The psychological impact of the pandemic not only affects your mental health but also manifest as physical symptoms, including hair loss. The high-stress environment may cause your hair follicles to prematurely enter the shedding phase, resulting in noticeable hair thinning across the scalp.

Changes in Lifestyle and Diet

With the shift to staying at home and gyms closing down, many have experienced changes in lifestyle and diet which can further impact hair health. Lack of regular physical activity can impair blood circulation, including to your scalp, potentially hindering nutrient delivery to hair follicles. Additionally, dietary changes, such as inconsistent eating patterns or the adoption of less nutritious comfort foods, can deprive your hair of the essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy growth. It's crucial to maintain a balanced diet, rich in protein, iron, and vitamins, to support the hair growth cycle.

Lack of Proper Hair Care

While it may seem trivial compared to the wider health implications of COVID-19, lack of proper hair care can contribute to hair loss. With the disruption of daily routines, many might forgo regular hair maintenance, such as routine haircuts, conditioning treatments, and gentle styling techniques. Over time, this can lead to weakened hair that is more prone to breakage. Additionally, the stress of coping with the pandemic can lead to neglect in hair care routines, further exacerbating hair loss issues. Maintaining hair health involves regular care and gentle handling to prevent additional stress on your hair follicles.

What to Do if You’re Experiencing Hair Loss After Covid

When faced with hair loss after a COVID-19 infection, understand the right steps to take can help your hair health. Rest assured, you're not alone if you're noticing an increase in hair shedding. In fact, a significant study reveals the prevalence of this condition. 48% of patients in a 2022 study reported hair loss post-COVID, with a substantial majority being female.

First and foremost, it's essential to monitor your symptoms. If you notice any accompanying scalp issues like a burning sensation or itchiness, consult a healthcare professional to rule out other causes. Remember, typical COVID-related hair loss, known as acute telogen effluvium, is usually self-limiting and should resolve on its own within 3-6 months.

To manage hair shedding effectively, maintain a balanced diet and ensure you're getting all the nutrients vital for hair regrowth. Supplements can also be beneficial. Regular physical activity can also boost overall health, potentially speeding up recovery.

Patience is key; hair regrowth is a gradual process and differs from person to person.

Incorporating a well-rounded hair care routine with gentle styling methods is another proactive step you can take. Avoiding harsh chemicals and heat can minimize damage and breakage, giving your hair the best chance to regain its strength and volume.

Preventing and Managing Hair Loss During Covid

Self-Care Practices for Healthy Hair

You've probably heard "you are what you eat," and when it comes to hair health, this adage holds true but it goes even deeper, "you are what you digest and absorb". A well-balanced diet rich in protein is essential for maintaining healthy hair. Foods like fish, poultry, and grass-fed meats can provide the necessary nutrients to support hair growth. Water also plays a crucial role; staying hydrated keeps your scalp and hair moisturized, potentially reducing the likelihood of hair loss.

Beyond nutrition, gentle grooming practices can aid in preventing further hair damage. Be mindful of the fact that pulling or tugging on your hair while brushing or sporting tightly-pulled hairstyles can exacerbate hair shedding. Similarly, frequent chemical treatments and hot styling tools can weaken hair strands. Adopt a gentler approach to hair care with a focus on minimizing stress to your follicles.

Conclusion

Navigating hair loss post-COVID can be challenging, but you're not alone. Remember, it's essential to monitor your symptoms. Sticking to a nutrient-rich diet, staying active, and adopting a gentle hair care routine can all contribute to your hair's recovery. Be sure to keep nurturing your hair and body, but if you're struggling, go ahead and book a virtual call to help put you on a path to regain your hair's growth and vitality or go back and check out more what can cause hair loss

References:

  1. Rossi, A., Magri, F., Sernicola, A., Michelini, S., Caro, G., Muscianese, M., Di Fraia, M., Chello, C., Fortuna, M., & Grieco, T. (2021). Telogen Effluvium after SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Series of Cases and Possible Pathogenetic Mechanisms. Skin Appendage Disorders, 7(5), 377–381.
  2. Ohyama, M., Matsudo, K., & Fujita, T. (2022). Management of hair loss after severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection: Insight into the pathophysiology with implication for better management. The Journal of Dermatology, 49(8), 939–947.

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