Can a COVID-19 infection cause hair loss?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, many people reported that their hair was falling out in large clumps months after recovering from the coronavirus.
However, doctors who studied the side effects of COVID said hair loss might not be as surprising as some think. Here's why:
One major cause of telogen effluvium, or hair shedding, is stress, according to a report from the University of Utah. For many, a COVID infection poses a major stressor.
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Typically, about 90% of hairs on the scalp are in a growth phase, or anagen, while approximately 10% are in a resting phase or telogen. At the end of the telogen phase, hair begins to shed, the study described.
After a stressful event or infection, a body can shift more growing anagen hairs into the resting telogen stage than normal at an earlier time, the University said.
According to the AADA, a fever, which is a common symptom of a coronavirus infection, can also cause hair shedding. Most patients will notice hair falling out about 2-3 months after recovering from COVID.
University of Utah health officials said most cases of telogen effluvium cases are over in about three to six months, and in COVID patients it could be even sooner - typically about three months.
For patients with long COVID, though, chronic hair shedding can be a symptom, which the report said is likely because their bodies are undergoing a "significant amount of stress and are not quite back to normal."
Dr. Powell Perng, a dermatologist at University of Utah Health, said most patients with chronic telogen effluvium will not lose all of their hair because the proportion of telogen hairs never exceeds 50%.