Can Covid-19 cause hair loss and how can it be treated? Here's what you need to know...
Last week, actress Alyssa Milano posted a video in which she spoke openly about her personal experience of coronavirus.
Referring to herself as a ‘long-hauler’ – a term used to refer to anyone who suffers from long-lasting coronavirus symptoms – the Charmed star shared the video on Instagram and Twitter to alert viewers to a surprising lingering after-affect of the disease: hair loss.
In the viral video, Milano brushed her hair and showed the camera just how many strands of her hair had come loose in a single stroke.
And while this might seem like an unlikely side effect, she isn’t alone. Check out Reddit or Twitter, and you’ll come across scores of threads where people, who have since recovered from the virus, are citing hair loss as a potential side effect.
And now science is backing up these claims. A recent study carried out by a doctor at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the COVID-19 survivor group Survivor Corps has identified hair loss as a long-term symptom of Coronavirus.
Surveying more than 1,500 patients via a Facebook poll, Dr Natalie Lambert found 98 possible symptoms – with one of these being hair shedding.
Speaking to Express, Dr Lambert, an associate research professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said: ‘The new symptoms our study identified include severe nerve pain, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, blurry vision and even hair loss.’
Despite some reporting of this side effect, however, it is still not known whether it is a significant symptom of coronavirus – therefore has not yet been recognised by the World Health Organisation or the NHS as such.
Can Covid-19 cause hair shedding?
Some experts, such as Dr Sharon Wong of the British Association of Dermatologists, have said that suffering coronavirus could trigger stress hormones to be released, potentially explaining the hair loss.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Dr Wong said some Covid-19 patients appear to be experiencing telogen effluvium, a form of hair loss which occurs after stress, shock or trauma. It can also, however, be triggered by an acute illness or high fever, she said.
She added that patients who experienced Covid-19 symptoms in March and April, some of whom tested positive, began to notice hair shedding around June and July.
‘The patients who were coming to see me specifically had symptoms during the beginning of the pandemic related to Covid, and then a few months later they were getting telogen effluvium.’
She continued: ‘We are definitely seeing quite specific Covid or pandemic related stresses and illnesses, and then subsequently the hair shedding a few months later.’
But she also said it remains to be known whether Covid-19 has impacted the hair follicles in a different way or how patients will recover: ‘It is early days, it’s a new strain of virus.’
Dr Wong told the Telegraph she will be following up with patients on a longer term basis to assess the true impact of the virus.
What to do if you are experiencing hair loss after coronavirus
If you’re experiencing hair loss and think it might be related to Covid-19, arrange an appointment with your GP or a dermatologist, trichologist or hair loss expert.
Hair loss can be upsetting, so engaging with support groups or speaking to other people in the same situation on online forums may be beneficial. If your hair loss is causing you distress, your GP may also be able to help you access counselling which can be a helpful tool.