We knew persistent fatigue, shortness of breath or even brain fog. But for many people who have contracted the virus, Covid-19 would also have hair loss as a consequence.
Hair that falls out in handfuls every day and a cause for concern for those who experience it. Is this phenomenon really attributable to the coronavirus? Is this hair loss irreversible or are there effective treatments?
A classic phenomenon of infectious diseases
Tainted by the Omicron variant a few months ago, Iris, with waist-length hair, quickly discovered that she was losing it significantly. “When I contracted the coronavirus I had the classic symptoms: headache and sore throat, body aches, fever, cough, intense tiredness and loss of taste and smell,” the 28-year-old describes. I dragged the cough and fatigue for a while, then I felt better and thought I was behind me. But over the next few weeks, with every brush stroke and even every time I just ran my hand through my hair, I noticed that I was losing a good chunk of it.
Like her, many patients testify to the same experience on social media. So is there really a connection? “Yes, this phenomenon affects about 25% of people who have contracted Covid-19, answers Dr. Isabelle Rousseaux, dermatologist and member of the National Union of Dermatologists-Venerologists. Hair loss occurs as a result of the disease, after recovery. It is a sequel, or a persistent symptom that is observed in people who suffer from a long Covid ”.
Therefore, Covid-19 can cause hair loss, like other viruses. “It is seen quite often in patients who have contracted infectious diseases that cause high fever, intense fatigue and a lot of stress, explains Dr. Rousseaux, it also occurs in many women after childbirth.” Thus, “within a few months of having had a high fever -which is a common symptom of Covid-19- or of having recovered from an illness, many people notice noticeable hair loss”, abounds the American Academy of Dermatology, which ponder the question.
Recovered from the disease, “the organization retains, however, some stigmas. A kind of stupefaction of hair growth can take place, continues Dr. Rousseaux. Normally, the hair goes through three phases and when everything is going well, the majority of the hair is in the growth phase, a small part is in the resting phase and a minority part is in the loss phase. In practice: after the growth phase, which lasts between three and six years, the hair stops growing and goes into a resting phase, before falling out. But when Covid-19 interrupts the hair cycle, the hair stops growing and falls out: this is called telogen effluvium.”
But don’t be scared, “it is a normal phenomenon, insofar as it is part of the hair’s life cycle, assures the dermatologist. Normally, a person will lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, but after Covid, it can be a little more. But the loss is diffuse, distributed throughout the scalp, it does not cause holes”. And based on observations, “more women are affected,” notes Dr. Rousseaux. Perhaps there is a hormonal influence, but it is also possible that having long hair makes hair loss much more noticeable for women, who see their hair bunching up in the brush.
a temporary phenomenon
For her part, Iris, “I hope it’s just that this symptom doesn’t last long, it’s been several weeks and I’m starting to worry.” But “when the cause of hair loss is fever, illness or stress, the hair tends to return to normal on its own,” says the American Academy of Dermatology. Fortunately, “it is a temporary phenomenon, completes Dr. Rousseaux. The phase of exacerbated hair loss usually lasts three to four months, after which the hair cycle returns to its normal rhythm and growth resumes. On the other hand, the concern when you have long hair is that regrowth will take time before it regains its original length. We can have a somewhat long interval in which we will have the impression of having less capillary mass”.
To remedy this, Iris “considers following a course of food supplements to speed up regrowth. My pharmacy sells it in capsules and even in gummies, I tell myself that it doesn’t hurt.” But for Dr. Rousseaux, “these cures are rubbish! First, hair growth follows its own rhythm: it grows programmed like a computer, about a centimeter per month, and nothing can speed it up. Furthermore, unlike medicines, there is currently no legislation on food supplements. The latter, therefore, presented many promises, but without results”. However, since stress can affect hair health, “taking a cure can have a psychological effect – we think it will help and can reduce stress. But the most noticeable effect will be especially on the wallet! If it doesn’t return to normal after six months, you should talk to your doctor. But in the vast majority of cases, you just have to be patient.”
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