As doctors and scientists learn more about the symptoms of COVID-19, they are learning that not every individual experiences the same symptoms. However, the typical symptoms are similar for most patients. Some common symptoms include:
While these symptoms are normal, some individuals infected with COVID-19 have reported more unique symptoms. Excessive hair loss is a symptom that is becoming more widely reported among patients who have recovered from the virus. This symptom is usually seen after several months of recovering from the virus.
Hair Growth Cycle
Hair grows from the follicle, which is inside the skin in the scalp. The portion that is visible above the scalp is the shaft. The only part of the hair that is living is inside the follicle at the very base where the hair grows. The hair shaft, or actual hair, is not living.
Hair grows at different rates on different individuals, usually about six inches per year. However, all hair cycles through growing, resting and shedding. Typically about 90% of hair is growing, 5% is resting, and up to 10% is shedding. This cycle of growth, resting, and shedding is constantly in process, meaning we are constantly losing and growing new hair.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Even in a healthy individual, up to 10% of hair is constantly in the shedding phase. Individuals typically lose 50 to 100 hairs per day. However, certain events can cause hair to shed at a quicker rate. Some of these include:
Basically, anything that causes stress, whether or physical or emotional, to the body can cause hair to shed excessively. The name for this condition is telogen effluvium. It occurs when stress causes hair cells in the follicle to become dormant and temporarily quit growing new hair. As hair grows in cycles, individuals won’t see the excessive hair shedding until about three months after the stressful event.
Does COVID Cause Hair Loss?
Hair loss two to three months after recovering from COVID is being widely reported. Individuals claim handfuls of hair fall out with showering or brushing their hair and wonder if it is a lingering symptom of COVID. Obviously, this excessive hair shedding is very stressful for the individual.
Doctors believe that hair loss from COVID-19 isn’t necessarily a symptom of the virus, but a result of the stress the illness causes on the body, which induces telogen effluvium. Any health condition that puts stress on the body can cause the cells in the hair follicles to go dormant and thus spend less time in the growing cycle and more time in the shedding cycle.
COVID-Induced Hair Loss is Temporary
Although it is stressful to see your hair falling out in clumps, it’s important to remember this hair loss is just a result of the follicles’ temporary shedding more than growing. If an individual’s body remains healthy, the follicles will begin working like normal and hair growth will resume.
How Can I Help My Hair Grow Back?
As stress is a common cause of hair shedding too much, it’s important not to stress too much when you notice your hair shedding. For most patients, hair growth will go back to normal in about four to six months. The following may help hair grow back:
When Should I See a Doctor?
The effects of telogen effluvium, or stress-induced hair loss, should clear up within six months. If the hair hasn’t stopped shedding and started filling in by that time, visit a doctor or dermatologist to rule out other symptoms such as a hormonal imbalance or vitamin deficiency. Certain medications may be prescribed to help stimulate normal hair growth, although these aren’t typically necessary for hair to resume its normal growth cycle.
If you’re experiencing excessive hair shedding after having COVID, try not to stress too much. Recognize that this hair shedding is typical after going through a stressful event and that the issue will likely resolve on its own within about six months. In the meantime, do what you can to keep your body healthy by eating well, getting enough sleep, and keeping stress at a minimum.