This week’s COVID Catch-up: Hair loss during the pandemic

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Hair loss can have multiple pandemic-related causes

COVID Catch-up is a weekly column featuring Lansing Journal journalist Carrie Steinweg’s personal experience with COVID-19 and things she learned from others who shared their experiences. Subscribe today to make sure you don’t miss any COVID Catch-ups. Last week’s column is available here.

By Carrie Steinweg
COVID
Carrie Steinweg (photo provided)

LANSING, Ill. (March 31, 2021) – Throughout having COVID-19, one of the abnormal things that occurred for me that has really bothered me is the hair loss. It’s not anything life-threatening. It’s not something that is painful. But it’s been bothersome. And it’s still happening and doesn’t seem to be slowing down as of yet.

Each time I brush my hair or wash it, my hair comes out in clumps and throughout the day, I find stray hairs all over my clothing, my chair, and any surface I walk by. I make sure my hair is in a secure ponytail before I go in my kitchen. One day I sat at my computer and counted as I pulled stray hairs off my shirt — 77 in a three-minute span.

As I set off to search for more information, I found out a number of things:

I’m not alone. Hair loss has been reported by many people during the pandemic — whether they have had COVID-19 or not.

It is temporary.

It is normal.

Why is it happening?

First, let’s talk about the cause. It’s not COVID-19 directly. Temporary hair loss can occur a few months after having a high fever or recovering from an illness. It’s actually hair shedding rather than hair loss and it has a medical name, telogen effluvium. A fever or illness can force more hairs into the shedding phase. If this is the cause, you may notice handfuls of hair coming out when you shower or brush your hair. It may last for six to nine months before it stops. But for most people, they’ll notice regrowth.

Some people who never developed a fever or COVID-19 are also finding their hair shedding this past year. Hair shedding can be a result of childbirth or a stressful life event, such as divorce or the death of a loved one. The global pandemic of the past year and many stresses associated with it can be a cause on its own. Once the stress lessens, your body should adjust and you should see hair regain normal fullness within six to nine months, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

I’ve chatted with people, virtually and in-person, both who have had COVID-19 and who have not, who have also said they’ve experienced hair loss during the pandemic.

Stress-caused loss

After gathering this information, I realize I fit more into the second category of the hair shedding being caused by stress. I never had a high fever with COVID-19 and my hair was already falling out in large amounts right around the time my COVID-19 symptoms started. I, like everyone else, was troubled by the unknown of the pandemic and had several stressors in my life that hadn’t been there before. I was now trying to do my work at home in a noisy household of people, dealing with kids who were doing remote learning, worrying about my entire family and if they were being exposed, seeing a loss in some work and income due to the pandemic, traveling to visit a sick parent in hospice care and dealing with my mother’s death. There were definitely stressors there before COVID-19 came along.

This week marks five months since my first COVID-19 symptoms began. I am encouraged to learn that in either case, the condition is temporary. I’m hopeful that within the next few weeks, it will slow down and eventually come to an end and will be happy to have a thick head of hair back again.

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