After overcoming COVID-19, some patients are reporting hair loss as an indirect side effect.
Theresa Cabrera contracted the airborne virus in the spring and spent a month in the hospital where she was sedated, intubated, and on a ventilator, according to TODAY.
The first thing she did when she was discharged in May was take a hot shower, which is where she noticed that her hair was falling out much more than usual.
“It came out in my hands — still does,” the 54-year-old recalled to the outlet.
“I was freaking out… Now, when I make a pony tail, it’s less than a quarter of what it used to be. It’s horrible.”
According to a survey on the Survivor Corp Facebook group, about 27% of patients recovering from the novel virus have reported hair loss as one of the long-term effects. But it isn’t just affecting COVID patients.
Doctors say the hair loss is attributed to “telogen effluvium,” a condition that leads to temporary hair shedding in people who have undergone an illness, surgery, or extreme stress.
Dr. Esther Freeman, a director of Global Health Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School who also runs a database of COVID manifestations titled who Dermatology COVID-19 Registry, noticed an uptick in hair loss cases.
Since telogen effluvium presents itself about three months after an illness or stressful life event, it aligns with when the pandemic first became widespread.
“If you’re recovering from COVID and then all of a sudden your hair starts to fall out, it can be extremely emotionally distressing,” said Freeman admitted.
The condition doesn't just target COVID patients, it can happen to anyone who has had a stressful year dealing with the unprecedented outbreak, including concerns over catching the virus, adjusting to the new normal of quarantine, social distancing, mask wearing, and coping with job loss and unemployment.
Dr. Marc Glashofer, a hair loss expert with The Derm Group in West Orange, New Jersey, said “COVID is a big stress,” as is “the death of a loved one, change in career,” and a “divorce.”
Since the condition includes all-over shedding, people are more likely to see their hair thinning out rather than spotting any bald patches in one area.
However, on the bright side, the condition is temporary and hair will grow back in the next few weeks or months.
For Cabreba, a coronavirus survivor, hair thinning and falling out is just one of the many lingering symptoms.
In the aftermath of the virus, she said she has also experienced shortness of breath, vertigo, and nerve damage, which has prevented her from returning to work.