Can COVID-19 cause hair loss?
People develop noticeable hair loss after recovering from COVID-19
Months after recovering from COVID-19, many people find that their hair is falling out in large clumps.
If we’ve learned anything from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s to expect the unexpected. The hair loss that many people develop, however, may not be so unexpected. Here’s why.
Temporary hair loss is normal after a fever or illness
Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19. A few months after having a high fever or recovering from an illness, many people see noticeable hair loss.
While many people think of this as hair loss, it’s actually hair shedding. The medical name for this type of hair shedding is telogen effluvium. It happens when more hairs than normal enter the shedding (telogen) phase of the hair growth lifecycle at the same time. A fever or illness can force more hairs into the shedding phase.
Most people see noticeable hair shedding two to three months after having a fever or illness. Handfuls of hair can come out when you shower or brush your hair. This hair shedding can last for six to nine months before it stops. Most people then see their hair start to look normal again and stop shedding.
Telogen effluvium causes noticeable hair shedding
Telogen effluvium causes noticeable hair shedding, but that’s all you should experience. If you have a rash, itchy scalp, or burning, something other than telogen effluvium is likely causing your hair loss, and it’s time to see a dermatologist.
Stress can cause temporary hair shedding
Even if you never developed a fever or COVID-19, you may still see hair shedding. Emotional stress can also force more hairs than normal into the shedding phase. And who isn’t feeling more stressed and anxious during the pandemic?
Again, the hair shedding begins about two to three months after the stress starts.
While seeing your hair fall out in clumps can add to your stress, it’s important to try to de-stress. Only when the stress ends will the excessive hair shedding stop.
Hair tends to return to normal on its own
When the cause of your hair shedding is due to a fever, illness, or stress, hair tends to return to normal on its own. You just have to give it time. As your hair grows back, you’ll notice short hairs that are all the same length by your hairline. Most people see their hair regain its normal fullness within six to nine months.
If you suspect that your hair loss is caused by something more than telogen effluvium from stress or a fever, talk with a hair-loss expert, a dermatologist. You can find one at, Find a dermatologist.
Related AAD resources
Sperling LC. “Alopeica.” In: Fitzpatrick JE, Morelli JG. Dermatology Secrets Plus (fifth edition). Elsevier, China, 2016:179-84.