Alyssa Milano says she is suffering from hair loss following COVID-19 earlier this year. Experts aren’t sure if hair loss is a direct symptom of the virus or simply a side effect of the stress of enduring such a serious illness, but it seems like a possibility for those who have had COVID-19.
Milano, who recently tweeted that she was “acutely ill” from the infection in April, shared her recent experience with hair loss in an Instagram video. “Hello everyone, I just wanted to show you how much hair comes out of my head because of COVID,” says Milano in the video.
Then she uses a detangling brush through her hair a few times, showing the strands of hair that have come out each time. Finally she takes the pile of loose hair and shows the camera with the words: “A brush. This is my hair loss from COVID-1
As a reminder, COVID-19 is a viral infection that most commonly causes symptoms such as high fever, cough, and shortness of breath, SELF previously explained. As the pandemic progressed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added a few more possible symptoms to this list, including headache, fatigue, sore throat, congestion, diarrhea, nausea, and muscle pain.
Hair loss is not on that official list, but according to a recent survey conducted by Natalie Lambert, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor of Medicine at Indiana University, it is fairly common among long-distance COVID-19 drivers. Patients with particularly persistent symptoms. The survey was posted on the Survivor Corps Facebook group. Of the 1,500 responses received, 423 identified hair loss as a persistent problem. This is just a preliminary investigation, which means it has not been peer-reviewed. However, it suggests that hair loss is common in patients with long-term COVID-19 symptoms.
One possible culprit for coronavirus-related hair loss is a phenomenon known as telogen effluvium, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Telogen effluvium is more of a hair loss than complete hair loss, SELF previously explained. Typically, your hair goes through three stages in its life cycle. It starts with a growth phase, then comes a transition phase when growth slows down, and then there is what is called a resting phase. After the resting phase, the hair falls out and is eventually replaced. Essentially, telogen effluvium occurs when your hair sleeps too quickly and falls out faster than normally expected.
This type of hair loss is actually quite common, especially after hormonal changes (such as childbirth or birth control) and other large or stressful life experiences, including recovery from a serious illness. For most people, hair loss shows up a few months after the stressful experience or life change, explains the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Fortunately, telogen effluvium is usually temporary – but it can take up to nine months for your hair to return to normal. During this time, you can use styling tricks, shampoo, conditioner, and styling products designed for people with fine or thinning hair to keep your hair looking and feeling fuller while you wait for it to recover .
Of course, hair loss isn’t as severe as many of the other long-term complications associated with COVID-19 infections. But it can still be stressful to experience – and it can be a sign that you’ve already lived through a deeply stressful event.