Over the past year, we have had reports of people losing their hair after falling ill with coronavirus (COVID-19). While there might be some evidence to suggest a link between COVID-19 and hair loss, these reports are largely anecdotal. The virus is just too new for scientists and clinicians to be able to officially link COVID-19 to hair loss.
However, there is a condition known as telogen effluvium, which is a type of hair loss often caused by severe illness (such as COVID-19), stress, or significant life changes/events (e.g. childbirth or marked weight loss).
While it’s normal to shed as many as 100 hairs each day, telogen effluvium occurs when there is a significant increase in the number of hairs lost each day. This increase occurs when a number of hairs move from the ‘growing phase’ (anagen) to the ‘shedding phase’ (telogen). In normal hair growth only 10% of the hair on the head is in the ‘shedding phase’, but when you are experiencing telogen effluvium, 30% of the hair is in the ‘shedding phase’, and in some cases, it can be more than this.
When this change happens it can be very sudden and occurs usually around 3 months after being triggered.
Telogen effluvium occurs when there is a disruption to the normal life cycle of the hair. This disruption is usually due to physical stresses on the body. The physical stresses that can cause this type of hair loss include:
- infections associated with a high fever (like the flu or COVID-19)
- illness associated with weight loss or that uses up protein stores in the body
- major surgery
- significant/stressful life event
- crash dieting
- starting new medication
- withdrawal of a hormone treatment
Don’t forget, it’s usually up to 3 months after an event like this that you start to see the hair loss.