Can Covid-19 cause hair loss?
This blog has been written for people concerned about their own hair loss in relation to Covid-19. Clinicians looking to find out more about hair loss should refer to the BAHRS professional articles where applicable.
Covid-19 has dominated the headlines for the past 12 months and one of the things recovered patients are reporting is hair loss.1-3 To date, there is no clinical evidence to show that the virus itself causes hair loss, however, the incidences of hair loss being experienced by Covid-19 patients may be as a result of the physical and emotional stress they have been under and therefore be due to a condition known as telogen effluvium.
What is telogen effluvium?
Telogen effluvium is a hair loss condition that can occur months after someone has gone through a stressful event where they have suffered emotional and physical distress. This can include childbirth, major surgery, being involved in an accident, and serious illness (including specifically those associated with a high fever).
Telogen effluvium differs from other forms of hair loss as it manifests more as generalised shedding, rather than as focal bald patches. The scalp and remaining hair may still appear perfectly healthy.
Our hair grows in cycles with different phases known as anagen (growing phase); catagen (transition phase); telogen (resting phase) and exogen (shedding phase). Thus, shedding is a perfectly normal part of the life cycle of our hair. In telogen effluvium, hair follicles are accelerated prematurely into the telogen phase where it remains for two to three months before shedding. This is the reason that telogen effluvium occurs a few months after a stressful event.
I haven’t had Covid-19 but I have still noticed my hair shedding during the pandemic
There are people who haven’t been diagnosed with Covid-19 or had any symptoms but have still found their hair is shedding. This could be as a result of the high levels of emotional stress which has been brought on by lockdown itself. This is likely still telogen effluvium and presents as described above. 3
What can I do if I think I may have telogen effluvium?
Telogen effluvium is often temporary. The hair usually grows backs to normal after six to nine months without any need for additional treatment. Therefore it is important to be patient as you may not need to seek medical advice in the first instance.
It is rare that telogen effluvium is associated with scalp irritation, redness or burning. If you have these or any other associated symptoms you may need to arrange an appointment with your general practitioner (GP) to rule out other potential hair loss or medical conditions.
On rare occasions, telogen effluvium may not grow back after six to nine months. At this stage it may be beneficial to seek advice from your GP, who will be best-placed to carry out any necessary investigations required to gain a thorough understanding of your individual needs.
If you require further hair loss input, you can seek advice from a specialist such as a trichologist or dermatologist with an interest in hair. They can explore your symptoms related specifically to your hair loss and recommend a course of action to either restore or prevent further hair loss.
If you think your hair loss has been caused by emotional stress during the pandemic, you may not see improvement until those emotional triggers are removed. The Mental Health Foundation has some useful resources for those experiencing stress as a result of the pandemic.4 Your GP may also be able to provide advice and guidance to local services which may be able to help.
If you’d like to find a BAHRS member trichologist or dermatologist to discuss your hair loss please follow the link: https://www.bahrs.co.uk/find-a-member/ For more information about hair loss visit https://www.bahrs.co.uk
- Angela Betsaida. Recovered COVID-19 patients report hair loss months after infection.News Medical Life Sciences online article. August 6, 2020. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200806/Recovered-COVID-19-patients-report-hair-loss-months-after-infection.aspx
- Hair Loss After Illness, including Covid-19. Alopecia.org online article. August 10, 2020. https://www.alopecia.org.uk/news/hair-loss-after-illness-including-covid-19
- Can Covid-19 cause hair loss? American Academy of Dermatology online article. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/covid-19