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COVID-19 May Cause Hair Loss

What happened: Millions of individuals have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, since its discovery in Wuhan, China in 2019. The virus — which causes fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills and a number of other symptoms — has been recorded in hundreds of countries and all 50 states in the U.S. However, a new side effect may have been discovered. A Facebook group called “Long Haulers,” which was created for those living and dealing with COVID-19 symptoms for more than a few weeks, found hair loss may be tied to the condition.

“I started noticing gobs of hair coming out when I took a shower,” Juli Fisher told WebMD. “At first I thought it was that I was using a cheaper shampoo, but it soon became obvious, as more and more came out, that this was something else.”

Fisher is not alone. A recent report from the American Academy of Dermatology found most COVID-19 patients experience telogen effluvium, or temporary hair loss, caused by fever, weight loss or physical or emotional stress.

I’ve lost so much hair that I thought my thyroid was out of whack. I went to see my endocrinologist, and she said my numbers were fine. So it has to be COVID or my advanced age of 64, or a combination. I have three different wigs in my Amazon shopping cart right now, just in case I need them. — Rachel Baum

The Frontlines: Some hair loss is — in most cases — normal and common, with most individuals shedding 50 to 100 hairs a day. However, certain chronic illnesses and conditions can cause excessive shedding, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Blood disorders, like vasculitis

Stress can also play a role.

“There are three common cycles in hair’s life cycle,” Sara Hogan, a health sciences clinical instructor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told WebMD. “Up to 90% at any time are growing, 5% are in a resting phase, and up to 10% are shedding. When you have a major stress event or shock, up to 50% of your hair can sprint ahead to the shedding phase.”

A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Sara Bovat, began losing her hair in 2016, shortly after being diagnosed with a rare condition. However, she told The Mighty it isn’t all bad. “Our society seems to numbly operate on a ‘fix what is broken’ mode. Someone is sad? ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ we chant without even listening to why the person may be sad to begin with. We frantically place band-aids on the ugly, the sick, the outspoken, the other. However, what’s underneath that band-aid? The very weakness we are trying to conceal still exists. Let’s fix our narrowed expectations. Let’s not try to fix each other.” You can submit your first-person story, too.

From Our Community:

What symptom have you been experiencing most lately?

Other things to know: Whether your hair loss is tied to the coronavirus, a chronic condition or cancer, there are several ways to handle hair loss:

Tell us about your experience with COVID-19: Have you been diagnosed with the coronavirus and experienced hair loss or another unexpected symptom? Let us know in the comments below.

Header image via spukkato/Getty Images