If there is anything to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that we are constantly discovering new things about the virus and its associated infection. Now new findings suggest hair loss may be a common long-term health consequence for patients who had severe COVID-19 that required hospitalization.
The findings, published in The Lancet, also suggest women may be at greater risk of suffering from long-term health consequences.
Previous research has found 1 in 10 people may have persistent health consequences up to three months after their COVID-19 infection has passed. People that have long COVID commonly report symptoms of fatigue, loss of taste and smell, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal, joint, and muscle pains.
The new study confirms that some of those commonly reported long COVID symptoms such as fatigue and joint pains could be considered as primary long-term health consequences of the virus, as their findings showed they were still reported six months after patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had recovered. Furthermore, an additional health concern was revealed: hair loss.
The study investigated 1,655 patients that had been discharged from the Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China between Jan 7, 2020, and May 29, 2020, after being treated for COVID-19.
Six months later patients were examined again with blood tests, a physical exercise test that consisted of a six-minute walk, and a questionnaire to assess whether they had any long-term symptoms after their COVID-19 experience.
The results indicated that 63 percent of patients had reported fatigue or muscle weakness, 27 percent reported sleep difficulties, and 22 percent reported they had experienced hair loss during the last six-month period since having COVID-19.
"At 6 months after acute infection, COVID-19 survivors were mainly troubled with fatigue or muscle weakness, sleep difficulties, and anxiety or depression," the authors wrote in the study. However, hair loss was also one of the highest reported symptoms six months on.
It's worth noting that hair loss is not uncommon during infections, and may occur for short periods of time after recovering from a regular cold. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) explains: "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."
The AAD also says losing hair after infection could continue for up to six to nine months and that this could be made worst by stress, which is prevalent during a pandemic with all the health, social, and economic challenges it presents. Furthermore, worrying about losing hair could cause more stress, which can result in a vicious feedback loop, so learning ways to mitigate stress is important.
Your hair should return to normal on its own over time, but if you are concerned speak to your health care provider or a dermatologist.