Post-COVID hair loss? It’s very much real.
Did you have an uninvited holiday guest named COVID this year? If so, you’re not alone. Given the extraordinarily high levels of the Coronavirus in the Washington, DC area, nearly everyone had COVID or knew someone who did. As our vaccination and booster rate is very high, most people emerged with minimal or moderate symptoms.
Post-COVID Condition: Hair Loss
Even with only a mild COVID infection, however, it’s common to experience post-COVID conditions, such as hair loss. The phenomenon called telogen effluvium is not limited to COVID infections but can occur 2-3 months after any severe illness, high fever, surgery, or child birth, to name a few.
Why Does Post-COVID Hair Loss Occur?
It’s not completely understood, but the physical or psychological stress can induce hair follicles to prematurely move into the telogen or resting phase.
Normally 90% of scalp hair is in the growth or anagen phase, which lasts 2-6 years. The hair then regresses and stops growing. Approximately 1% of hair is in this regressing or catagen phase. In acute telogen effluvium, a larger than normal percentage of hairs move to the resting phase and are lost “at the root” with a club visible on the end. More than 100-150 hairs may be lost each day. Up to 50% of the scalp hairs may be affected but complete hair loss does not occur. The hair does grow back, but it may take 6-12 months.
If there is itching, scaling skin or pustules, it is likely that the hair loss is attributable to another cause and it’s important to be evaluated. Telogen effluvium can also sometimes unmask other conditions such as androgenetic or hereditary hair loss and can co-exist with other types of alopecia.
Treatments for Post-COVID Hair Loss
Telogen effluvium doesn’t usually require treatment, although there are some topical and oral regimens that may accelerate regrowth. Don’t be alarmed if you have some shedding 2- 3 months after an episode of COVID, but if the shedding is associated with other changes in your scalp or does not seem to be resolving, schedule a consultation with a dermatologist.