Patients report hair loss long after contracting COVID-19

Denise Hill says she’s always had thick, curly locks, so seeing a few more hairs on her brush or in the tub didn’t seem like a big deal.

However, a trip to her dermatologist for her yearly exam brought unexpected news.

“When I came to see Dr. Hill in December and she was examining my scalp, and when she asked by chance did I have COVID — yeah, I did but that was months ago,” Denise said.

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Her fever and aches were long gone, but Denise was experiencing what many COVID-19 patients discover months after they’ve recovered: thinning hair.

It’s something dermatologist Dr. Samantha Hill has been seeing a lot more of in her practice.

“We see patients coming in complaining of hair loss, and we also have patients coming in for their normal skin check and exams and let us know, ‘oh, by the way, I’m also having this hair loss’,” says Dr. Hill.

Dr. Hill says this kind of hair loss is called Telogen Effluvium.

“In a nutshell, when the body undergoes something traumatic, an illness, an emotional stressor, a physical stressor, a big surgery, something like that, it will pause production of non-essentials,” Dr. Hill explains.

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As you work to recover from whatever condition you have, your body puts all of its energy into getting you better instead of regenerating those hair follicles. That means when your hair naturally falls out, it’s not being replaced right away.

A study in the medical journal Lancet shows about 22% of people hospitalized with COVID reported hair loss.

Dr. Hill says the good news here is that even if you notice thinning hair, it isn’t something you need to be concerned about.

“It’s not a sign of permanent hair loss. It’s not a sign of scarring in the scalp, autoimmune disease, or continued inflammation. It’s just the body needed to take a break from things it doesn’t feel like, or keep you alive things,” according to Dr. Hill.

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Denise says her hair isn’t back to what it was before COVID, but she feels a lot better after talking to Dr. Hill.

“She did reassure me not to be alarmed because my hair was not breaking off, so it was still healthy and she was seeing a lot of new growth,” says Denise.

Dr. Hill says hair loss after COVID is completely random. It doesn’t matter your age, gender or how sick you were.

As for how long it takes to return to normal, Dr. Hill says in most cases, your hair should be back to how it was before COVID in about a year.