Life after Covid-19: ‘My hair fell out in chunks after contracting coronavirus’

Aug 28, 2020
Denise Benardos, 54, started experiencing significant hair loss almost two months after her coronavirus diagnosis. Source: Supplied.

Almost two months after she tested positive for coronavirus, Denise Benardos started experiencing a tingling, burning sensation on her scalp. A day later, she noticed she was losing large clumps of hair in the shower.

“In a little over a month, I lost 80 per cent of my hair,” she told Starts at 60.

Denise, a 54-year-old from Queens, New York City, said the hair loss started on June 4, almost two months after her first coronavirus symptoms appeared — which included everything from muscle pain and vomiting to difficulty breathing and fatigue.

“I was sick for a total of two weeks,” Denise explained. “Being sick with Covid-19 was scary, [but] this horrible after effect makes the virus even worse.”

Denise said her dermatologist diagnosed her with telogen effluvium, a form of temporary hair loss that usually happens after stress. He told her it would take roughly six to 12 months for her hair to start growing back.

“I was depressed,” she said. “I bought all types of hats and wigs. I felt ugly, especially around my husband. I had to cut my hair very short for it to look like I was not sick.”

Denise Benardos, a 54-year-old from Queens, New York City, said the hair loss started on June 4, almost two months after her diagnosis. Source: Supplied.

While some of the more well-known long-term side effects of coronavirus include pulmonary damage, post-viral fatigue and chronic cardiac complications, many patients recovering from the virus are also experiencing hair loss.

In fact, a survey of more than 1,500 people in the Survivor Corps Facebook group, found that 423 respondents experienced hair loss after being diagnosed with the virus. Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found a “high frequency” of male pattern hair loss among admitted Covid-19 patients.

What the experts are saying

Leading dermatologist Dr Saxon Smith said while Covid-19 may be to blame, the hair loss is not caused directly by the virus itself but by the impact the virus has on the immune system.

“When your body is under significant stress, [it] may respond to this by shutting down ‘unnecessary’ functions,” he told Starts at 60.

Dr Smith said this could be the case when it came to unexpected hair loss, explaining that the hair follicles on your head are switched into a ‘sleeping phase’ to help save energy and fight off the virus.

“You [won’t] actually notice that this has happened until two to three months after you recover and your body restarts the process it has shut down,” he explained, adding once the process restarts it will first push out the existing ‘sleeping’ hair, which is why those affected find they suddenly start to lose significant amounts of hair.

Dr Smith said this process is called telogen effluvium and is usually a short-term thing. In most cases, the hair will grow back within six to 12 months. He said hair-boosting supplements may assist in the recovery process, but recommends seeing a doctor or dermatologist before starting anything new.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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