A number of Covid-19 survivors have reported significant hair loss, a lingering side effect that has affected people even after they have recovered from the virus.
CAPE TOWN – A number of Covid-19 survivors have reported significant hair loss, a lingering and disheartening side effect that has affected people even after they have recovered from the virus.
Cape Town dermatologist, Dr Dilshaad Asmal said that the physical and emotional stress that a Covid-19 patient experiences could lead to a reversible hair loss condition called telogen effluvium.
“The condition is known to occur a few months after a stressful event , such as emotional distress, major surgery or high fever and Covid-19. There is compelling evidence that it could also be a long-term condition,” she said.
Covid-19 long hauler from Durban, Azra Khan, says she has been battling with persistent symptoms for three months, and her hair loss has been a difficult and unpleasant experience.
“It saddens me, but I am grateful to be alive. Life has changed drastically. I was a fit, active, healthy person who didn’t even get a flu. Now I don’t drive, I barely leave my home, I’m weak and can’t do much.
The 42-year-old wife, mother of twins and health coach said she started to notice strange changes in her hair soon after she contracted the virus on December 28.
“In the first week my soft hair became very hard. No amount of conditioner changed that. By the end of the second week my hair started falling when I showered or brushed it. I also got split ends which I never had before.”
Khan said she has been to see her doctor and an infectious disease specialist every two weeks since her diagnosis, however, they could not tell her assuredly that her hair loss was due to the virus.
Some of her other symptoms she has been battling are fatigue, leg and arm cramps, loss of taste, blurry vision, brain fog and insomnia.
A long-hauler from Merebank in KwaZulu-Natal, Jane Pillay, says she says she noticed hair loss after her second admission to hospital for Covid-19.
It has been over three months since the 56-year-old mother of two was admitted to hospital for Covid-19.
“I noticed the hair loss after my 2nd admission and I was put on this aggressive steroid treatment to clear my chest. It’s hard to estimate the time amount of hair loss, however on a daily basis they come out in clumps like that of a patient undergoing chemotherapy,“ she said.
“My hair has thinned out a lot. I have not seen a doctor as I heard its common with Covid-19 patients. I feel devastated at losing so much hair as its my crown that makes me feel so great. My life is not the same as the fatigue, loss of clear vision and the fatigue seriously weighs me down,” Pillay said.
Lydia Naidoo, 32, said she has always had thick and healthy hair, however, she became worried and disheartened when she saw the amount of hair that was falling out.
“It’s quite horrifying to see bunches of hair falling when I wash my hair. I even dread just brushing my hair, as it’s disheartening to see the amount of hair that comes out. I’ve lost about half of my hair’s thickness so far. On average I am losing like a handful of hair strands per day.”
Naidoo, who is financial advisor in Durban said she first experienced Covid-19 symptoms on December 18 and received her positive test results five days later.
Her first symptoms included a fever, sore throat, and severe respiratory problems. “I struggled to breathe and it felt like my chest was constricted,” she said.
While it took Naidoo just over two weeks to recover, she has experienced some lingering symptoms, including her hair loss.
“I did my own research and then I also spoke to a doctor about it. She confirmed that Covid-19 is the cause. She said it’s similar to post traumatic stress disorder. If you experience high stress now, it only shows in your body after 3 months.
“She said the trauma to our system makes our body only focus on essential functions and because hair growth is not as essential as other functions, our hair tends to shed,” Naidoo said.
Since noticing her hair loss, Naidoo has implemented changes in her hair care routine including using sulfate and paraben free shampoo, increasing her collagen intake, eating more healthy protein to stimulate growth, and she invested in satin headbands and pillowcases as they are gentle on fragile hair.
“I was told that this is not a permanent condition and it is reversible so I find solace in that,” she said.