We’re still learning about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, and its symptoms. The medicine changes as the medical community keeps learning. One thing in the news today? Hair loss as a coronavirus symptom that lingers past when survivors feel sick. It’s being widely reported as part of the temporary effects. But it’s not exactly what it seems. Allow me to explain.
Today.com reported that 27 percent of patients recovering from COVID-19 cited hair loss as one of the lingering problems in a survey of more than 1,500 people in the Survivor Corp Facebook group. This group includes those who call themselves “long haulers” because they often discuss the long-term effects of the disease—days or months. Dr. Marc Glashofer, a hair loss expert with The Derm Group in West Orange, New Jersey, told Today.com that he has noticed an overall increase in hair loss at his practice. As Today.com notes, doctors agree this is from something called telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is a form of temporary hair loss that often happens after stress or a traumatic event to the body or even emotionally. Now, I’m not saying those with COVID-19 (either with symptoms or without), don’t have telogen effluvium. More than 1/4 of those polled in this Facebook group do and hair loss can be traumatic on its own. But hair loss like this can happen with any disease, surgery or even childbirth. It happened to me after I had surgery on my ovaries.
“When I see somebody who has shedding, I don’t ask about daily stress like your job or traffic. We’re talking about big stress like the death of a loved one, change in career, a divorce and COVID—COVID is a big stress,” Glashofer told Today.com. Yup, that means even if you don’t get the virus, you can still suffer from telogen effluvium because of the emotional toll of living through a pandemic.
The good news? Telogen effluvium only lasts around three months (more if there’s additional trauma). The hairs aren’t gone. They get pushed back to the next growth cycle. Still, you should check with your doctor if you see prolonged hair loss as your doc might want to check for low vitamin D levels or a thyroid disorder.