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Is hair loss a sequela of the virus?

We knew persistent fatigue, shortness of breath or even brain fog. But for many people who have contracted the virus, the Covid-19 would also have hair loss as a sequel.

Hair that falls out every day in handfuls and a source of concern for those who experience it. Is this phenomenon really attributable to the coronavirus? Is this hair loss irreversible or are there effective treatments?

A classic phenomenon of infectious diseases

Contaminated by the Omicron variant a few months ago, Iris, hair long to the waist, quickly found that she was losing it significantly. “When I contracted the coronavirus, I had the classic symptoms: headache and throat pain, body aches, fever, cough, intense fatigue and loss of taste and smell, describes the 28-year-old young woman. I dragged the cough and fatigue for a little while, then I felt better and thought it was behind me. But in the following weeks, with each brush stroke and even each time I simply ran my hand through my hair, I noticed that I was losing a good handful of it.

Like her, many patients testify to the same experience on social networks. So is there really a connection? “Yes, this phenomenon affects around 25% of people who have contracted Covid-19, answers Dr Isabelle Rousseaux, dermatologist and member of the National Syndicate of Dermatologists-Venerologists. Hair loss occurs as a result of the disease, after recovery. It is a sequel, or a persistent symptom observed in people suffering from a long Covid ”.

Covid-19 can therefore cause hair loss, like other viruses. “It is quite commonly observed in patients who have contracted infectious diseases causing high fever, intense fatigue and great stress, explains Dr. Rousseaux, it is also the case in many women after childbirth”. Thus, “a few months after having had a high fever – which is a common symptom of Covid-19 – or recovered from an illness, many people notice noticeable hair loss”, abounds the American Academy of Dermatology, which s pondered the question.

“Telogen Effluvium”

Recovered from the disease, “the organization nevertheless retains some stigmata. It can take place a kind of stupefaction of hair growth, continues Dr. Rousseaux. Normally, the hair goes through three phases and when everything is going well, the majority of the hair is in the growth phase, a small part is in the resting phase and a minority part is in the falling phase. In practice: after the growth phase, which lasts between three and six years, the hair stops growing and goes into a resting phase, before falling out. But when Covid-19 disrupts the hair cycle, hair stops growing and falls out: this is called telogen effluvium”.

But don’t panic, “it’s a normal phenomenon, insofar as it’s part of the hair’s life cycle, reassures the dermatologist. Normally, a person will lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, but after a Covid, it can be a little more. But the loss is diffuse, distributed over the entire scalp, it does not cause holes”. And according to the observations, “more women are affected, notes Dr. Rousseaux. Maybe there’s a hormonal influence, but it’s also possible that having long hair makes hair loss much noticeable by women, who see the hair pile up in their brush.”

A temporary phenomenon

For her part, Iris, “hope it’s just that this symptom won’t persist for too long, it’s been going on for several weeks and I’m starting to worry”. But “when the cause of hair loss is due to fever, illness or stress, the hair tends to return to normal on its own”, reassures the American Academy of Dermatology. Fortunately, “it is a temporary phenomenon, completes Dr. Rousseaux. The exacerbated hair loss phase generally lasts three to four months, then the hair cycle returns to its normal rhythm and regrowth resumes. On the other hand, the concern when you have long hair is that the regrowth will take time before recovering the original length. We can have a somewhat long interval during which we will have the impression of having less hair mass”.

To remedy this, Iris “considers following a course of food supplements to accelerate regrowth. My pharmacy sells it in capsules and even in gummies, I tell myself that it can’t hurt”. But for Dr. Rousseaux, “these cures are rubbish! First, hair growth follows its own rhythm: it grows programmed like a computer, about one centimeter per month and nothing can speed it up. Moreover, unlike medicines, there is currently no legislation on food supplements. The latter therefore put forward a lot of promise, but without results ”. However, since stress can affect hair health, “taking a cure can have a psychological effect: we think it will help and it can reduce stress. But the most noticeable effect will be especially on the wallet! If there is no return to normal after six months, you should talk to your doctor. But in the vast majority of cases, you just have to be patient”.

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