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Dealing with Covid-19 and Hair Loss

Many Americans are reporting hair loss after recovering from Covid-19.
Covid and hair loss

Why is my hair falling out after Coronavirus?

Coronavirus has upended our planet and two years later we are still very much dealing with this disease. With over 82 million cases in the United States alone, it’s affecting Americans in a variety of ways, but one of the unfortunate side effects for some is hair loss. We’ll explore a handful of reasons why this could be happening, as we await more scientific evidence as this novel coronavirus continues to be studied.

Dr. Shilpi Kheterpal, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic says “We are seeing patients who had COVID-19 two to three months ago and are now experiencing hair loss. I think the timing is really crucial.” Full article is available here.

What’s happening is called “telogen effluvium,” a non-scarring hair loss that’s the result of an abnormal change in follicular cycling. It’s essentially a temporary hair loss due to a shock to the system. Other triggers that can cause telogen effluvium include surgery, extreme weight loss, an accident, major trauma (physiological or psychological, such as a death in the family) or infection. Even things like prescriptions can cause hair to fall out.

Dr. Khetarpal says there are several risk factors associated with hair loss after COVID-19. Remember, this virus affects everyone differently; some individuals have almost no symptoms (asymptomatic) while others can react severely to this virus and end up needing hospitalization. The variances in hair loss is also apparent. Here are a couple of factors that could make a person more likely to lose their hair after contracting this virus:

The first one is genetics. If a person is predisposed to genetically losing their hair, they could be more likely to lose it after COVID. Nutrition. There are nutrients necessary to grow hair. For example, if someone has significant iron stores, they’ll be able to support hair growth more than someone that’s anemic. Growing hair is not considered essential to the body, so if someone needs the iron to make red blood cells, the body’s going to do that instead of concentrating on growing hair.

While scientists don’t have solid evidence of what the exact reasons are for hair loss after COVID-19, they do have several factors that can come into play which can explain why suffering from an illness would lead to thin or lost hair:

Stress, anxiety and worrying. Stress can harm many of the systems in the body, from the brain to digestion and even hair growth. When cortisol levels are off, it can halt or slow down hair follicle function. While stress is not the exact cause of hair loss, it triggers hormones in our body and when these hormones don’t release properly, things like hair loss can occur.

Lack of proper nutrition. COVID-19 can cause loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea and light-headedness. The end result is an iffy diet at best, which leads to nutrient loss. Hair development requires a lot of energy within the body and any kind of disruption can slow down that process. A single gram of hair requires nearly 650kJ of energy to create. That’s about the same amount of energy required to run for 10 minutes.

Fever. Fevers can do a lot of damage to a body. COVID-19 has been associated with high fevers for some. When that happens, it puts the individual into telogen effluvium, or a shedding phase. This can last about 6 weeks after the fever begins and could last for many weeks before it returns to normal. If you’re genetically destined to lose your hair, it might not return at all.

Circulation. COVID-19 has been linked to blood clots in some individuals. If there’s a reduced blood flow to the hair follicles, it can starve out existing robust hairs, causing a massive shed in anagen effluvium type scenarios.

Sleep loss. Stress from a pandemic, job loss, isolation, children home from school and other concerns can lead to a loss of sleep, which can negatively affect the ability to grow hair. Combine this with fever, pain, coughing, etc. and the insomnia can also cause your hair to shed.

Staying at home. Other factors can come into play for some individuals suffering from hair loss. With stay at home orders, many are skipping routine health checks, slacking off on exercising and generally laxing personal care as they stay home to stop the spread. In some instances these people could be missing out on undetected health issues that are causing hair loss as well.

The biggest concern for people who do not have COVID but do have hair loss is pandemic stress. National Hair Centers has seen more patients lately experiencing telogen effluvium in 2020, including patients who did not have COVID-19. From financial stress to isolation worries to schooling from home, this is a difficult time for everyone and oftentimes this stress can lead to temporary hair loss. Getting outside, eating right, exercising and staying in communication with friends and loved ones can help prevent some of the effects of stress on not only your hair, but your entire body.

There is some good news: for most people, this hair loss is temporary. There are some things you can do at home to make your body the perfect environment for hair growth:
1. Be kind to your scalp. Do not try harsh chemicals, scrubbing or deep treatments. Avoid high-heat styling tools, give your hair a break until it starts to grow back.
2. Avoid tight ponytails - this can lead to traction alopecia which could make the hair loss worse.
3. Eat well. Foods loaded with protein help with hair growth. This can be anything from eggs and peanut butter to fish, avocado and nuts.
4. Get outside. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to hair shedding. Experts suggest 10 to 30 minutes in the sun several days per week.
5. Work on your mental health. Meditation, walks, yoga, kayaking, stretching...anything you can do to help your mood and mental health will be beneficial, and not just for hair loss.

If you’re experiencing unexplained hair loss and would like to talk about your options, stop in and see us, there’s no fee for our consultation.