As people across America continue to fall ill to COVID-19, news outlets are now reporting a new side effect for those diagnosed with the coronavirus, hair loss. Although the hair loss isn’t officially recognized as a symptom of the coronavirus, over 27% of at least 1,100 poll respondents in the Survivor Corps Facebook group have reported experiencing hair loss.
However, there has been a surge of patients seeking treatment for hair loss during quarantine, according to Dr. Michele S. Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“Patients have literally come in with bags of hair looking like a full head of hair was in the bag. They all have similar stories. That they were extremely sick with high fevers and have never been that sick in their entire lives.”
News outlets report that physicians believe that the symptom of hair loss may not be a result of the disease itself, but instead, the “physical shock” patients’ bodies go through as they battle the other symptoms of the virus, such as a high fever.
Such a condition is known as Telogen effluvium in the medical field.
Harvard Medical School notes that the condition can be brought on by a high fever, drastic weight loss, and extreme change in eating habits. It can also come as a result of iron deficiency or abrupt hormonal changes, major physical trauma, significant psychological stress, surgery, severe infection, or other illness.
Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundations, states that the condition usually occurs when a patient’s body “experiences a shock to the system forcing the hair to jump from the growing phase to the resting phase and then the shedding phase after a couple of months.”
Dr. Khetarpal believes that that is why most of the COVID-19 patients are experiencing hair loss several weeks after recovering from the initial “shock” caused by the condition.
The Chicago physician urges those suffering from hair loss to treat their stress levels to prevent worsening symptoms.
“Hair is our identity, it’s a huge part of our culture, and the shedding itself can cause a lot of stress. That can contribute to the problem and make things worse.”
USA Today states that other than hair loss, there are no other Telogen effluvium symptoms. If people began to experience, scaling, flaking, or any inflammation or rough patches, they are encouraged by experts to speak with their physician as they could be a different underlying issue.