Does COVID-19 Cause Hair Loss?

Beauty Uncovered explores the worrying rumour that COVID-19 can cause hair loss

Man losing hair

There has been a lot of coverage in the media about people losing hair after testing positive for COVID-19. But, is this really true? Or just another media scare tactic?

We spoke to hair transplant surgeon Dr Greg Williams to find out! 

Will COVID-19 make me lose my hair?

G: The short answer is both yes and no. There is no evidence to date that infection with the coronavirus causes a specific type of hair loss. However, a common symptom of COVID-19, especially with severe illness, is a high fever. It is well established that several months after having a high fever significant hair loss can occur, essentially because the body has a shock – this is known as telogen effluvium and is fairly common.  

Usually this recovers but may have a delay in doing so for a few months and then, because generally hair grows about a centimetre a month, it can take a long time before long hair returns to its previous thickness. The hair loss associated with telogen effluvium is diffuse – as in it occurs all over the head.

There is another type of sudden hair loss which tends to be more focal. This is known as alopecia areata and is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles causing inflammation and hair loss. Although often localised in discreet circular patches, the hair shedding can be widespread and in the worst cases result in loss of all the hair on the head and, at the far end of the severity spectrum, all the hair on the body. What actually causes Alopecia Areata is unknown, but there has been a long-held theory that stress has a role to play.

Understandably, many of those who have been infected with COVID-19 have raised levels of stress even if they don’t have a high fever, so this could possibly be a factor in this type of hair loss occurring after COVID-19.

Am I at risk?

G: Like many other aspects of COVID-19, research is on-going and data continues to be collected. The incidence of hair loss associated with COVIS-19 remains unknown. It is also not known why some people who have a high fever go on to develop telogen effluvium whilst others don’t. Currently, most patients presenting with COVID-19 related hair loss are women, but the incidence in men has not been established, likely because men are more prone to hair loss, nor has the incidence in different racial groups or which age groups might be most at risk.

What should I do if I experience hair loss?

G: If you’re experiencing hair loss, and have had COVID-19, the two aren’t necessarily linked.

There are many causes of sudden hair loss and if you start to notice an increase in hair shedding that is sustained, you should seek the advice of an expert to seek a definitive diagnosis. You can find advice on choosing a hair surgeon through The British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery.

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