One quarter of the respondents to an informal poll reported hair loss as a result of their recent bout with COVID-19, Survivor Corp, a social media group, reported. The loss of hair came several weeks after recovery from the illness, and lingered for months afterward.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not list hair loss as a symptom of COVID-19, dermatologists have seen an influx of patients seeking treatment for hair loss, with some carrying bags of lost hair, the Cleveland Clinic reported.
Doctors say the condition is probably not a direct result of the virus, but rather a condition known as telogen effluvium, which results from the physical shock experienced by the body as the patient battles high fevers and other severe symptoms. Similar results can be triggered by surgery, major physical trauma, major psychological stress, and severe infection or illness, among other causes.
Dermatologists explain that at any given time, about 85% to 90% of the hairs on a person’s head are in the anagen phase, i.e. when they are actively growing. The others are in the telogen, or resting, phase. A strand of hair is typically in the anagen phase for two to four years, then enters the telogen phase where it rests for about two to four months, and then falls out, usually at the rate of 100 hairs per day. It is then replaced by a new, growing hair.
In telogen effluvium, a shock to the body pushes an increased number of hairs from the anagen to the telogen phase, where typically around 30% of the hairs go into the resting phase before falling out at an average of 300 hairs a day.
Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said most COVID-19 patients usually experience hair loss a couple of weeks to months after they recover from the initial “shock” that triggered the telogen effluvium. Patients can end up losing up to 50% of their hair, but the good news is that it is only temporary, as shedding generally decreases over the next six months and the hair returns to normal thickness.
Dr. Khetarpal urges patients to manage their stress so the condition should not worsen.
Several Jewish males in the New York City area have reported they lost the hair of their peyos, a phenomena which has not yet been addressed by medical professionals.
The only symptom of telogen effluvium is hair loss. Patients who experience other symptoms like flaking, scaling, inflammation, or rough patches should consult their doctor to rule out any other condition.