What to Do About Hair Loss From COVID-19

What to Do About Hair Loss From COVID-19

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people have become familiar with the most common symptoms of the virus: cough, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, and sore throat. For many people, once the virus clears, so do their symptoms. 

But for others — a surprisingly large number — the virus can have far-reaching side effects that may not show up until much later. One of those symptoms is hair loss.

John Perrotti, MDMichael Paltiel, MDZina Goldvekht, PA-CAleksey Babakhanoc, FNP, and the rest of our team at Adult and Pediatric Dermatology help offer custom hair loss treatments for people in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York, including women and men who experience hair loss following an infection with COVID-19. Here’s how the virus causes hair loss and what you can do about it.

COVID-19 infection and hair loss

If you’ve had a COVID-19 infection, you might be wondering if hair loss is common among people who’ve had the illness. Surprisingly, the answer is yes. 

In one recent study, roughly half of all COVID-19 patients reported some hair loss in the weeks and months following their illness. Disease severity appeared to play a role in whether a person would experience the symptom: 54% of hospitalized patients reported subsequent hair loss compared with 47% of patients who received outpatient care (and had less severe disease).

While understandably, most media attention has been focused on the acute symptoms of COVID-19 infection — symptoms occurring during the “active” infection stage. But more studies are revealing an alarming pattern of long-term symptoms, many of which show up weeks or months later. This collection of post-infection symptoms is sometimes referred to as “long-haul COVID.”

Researchers are still trying to understand why symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and brain fog persist after a COVID-19 infection. But with hair loss, the answer seems more straightforward. Even better: hair loss after COVID-19 appears to be temporary.

Telogen effluvium: Hair loss following illness

Seeing big clumps of hair left behind in your brush or comb can be alarming. But if you’ve been ill or had a fever, it turns out that hair loss isn’t all that uncommon. In fact, there’s a name for this kind of hair loss — telogen effluvium — and it’s better characterized as excessive shedding rather than a follicle problem.

Hair growth happens in four distinct phases: 

When you’re ill, have a fever, or are simply stressed out, your hair follicles may “push” more hairs into the telogen and exogen phases, which means you’ll wind up shedding more hair in a short amount of time. That is perceived as hair loss — but because it’s really just the normal hair cycle “sped up,” those hairs typically begin regrowth shortly afterward. 

Hair loss that’s permanent

Typically, telogen effluvium doesn't require medical treatment — just time to allow your hair to recover (and maybe a little stress-management — especially during the pandemic). For other causes of hair loss with permanent effects, injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) may help.

PRP is made from a sample of your own blood, and it contains powerful growth factors that may help heal damaged follicles or promote the development of new follicles. PRP treatment is completely customizable, and because it uses your own blood, there’s no risk of rejection or allergic reaction.

During a PRP treatment session, our team draws a small blood sample and processes it to separate and concentrate the platelets. These platelets contain essential growth factors. Then, the platelets and plasma (the liquid part of your blood) are recombined and injected into the site of hair loss. There’s no downtime afterward, and treatments can be repeated as needed.

Learn more about hair loss treatment

Hair loss can be unsettling, especially when you lose a lot of hair in a relatively brief period — the hallmark of telogen effluvium. But in many cases, the loss is temporary, and your hair will slowly grow back.

The big takeaway: If you’re experiencing hair loss, there’s no way to tell for sure that it’s due to a recent COVID-19 infection (or any other illness, for that matter). It still needs to be evaluated to rule out other potential causes.

To schedule your evaluation, call 315-860-1185 or book an appointment online with the team at Adult and Pediatric Dermatology today.

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