With the total confirmed UK cases of Covid now over 300,000 and people suspecting infection before February, it is no surprise that we are seeing a whole range of long-term side effects of this pandemic. These have included shortness of breath, fatigue, and brain fog, all widely accepted side effects of severe viral infection as your body fights to heal itself.
However, there is a growing number of people reporting losing their hair after Covid infection.
Whilst there is no medical research that shows a link between Covid infection and hair loss, it is likely that these patients are actually experiencing telogen effluvium.
What is Telogen Effluvium?
You may be surprised to know that only up to 90% of your hair is in the active (anagen) growth phase. This phase lasts somewhere between 2-4 years. The remaining hair is in the telogen (resting) phase and it is during this period that hair falls out to be replaced by new hair growth. Typically, a healthy human will naturally shed around 100-125 hairs per day, this is completely normal.
When people experience an event that triggers telogen effluvium approximately 30% of the hair enters the telogen phase causing a much larger hair loss.
As it can take up to 4 months for the hair to shed, it is highly unlikely that you will experience hair loss initially, and often it is hard to recall a life event that may have triggered the hair loss. Some of the events that can trigger telogen effluvium can include;
Physical trauma such as an accident or surgery
Fever or intense infection
This is list is not comprehensive by any means, but it does highlight some of the triggers that anyone infected with Covid may have experienced.
In our hair loss clinic, we had clients come to us as early as late April reporting hair loss after suspected Covid infection. During their consultation, we discovered not only evidence of telogen effluvium, but also chronic inflammation and our findings were passed to our consultant Oxford Professor of Immunology and Cancer Services.
Treating the inflammation is the first step in helping to resolve the telogen effluvium and this we do using a combination approach that uses advanced technology to help track progress. Below we have listed the protocol we follow when our clients present with chronic inflammation.
1) Calming the scalp inflammation
We evaluate what phase the hair is in using the latest advanced software trichology to take this a level beyond what we can see with the Nioscope. We use in-salon treatment to start the calming treatment and provide a home care regime to continue treatment. Clients are then re-evaluated.
2) Blood tests
We consider your blood results and can order private testing if this is required. We also have our nurse practitioner prescriber who can carry out antibody testing for Covid or T-Cell Testing for Covid.
3) We will look at supplements that can be beneficial in calming the immune response.
4) We will discuss nutrition and can have a nutrient plan created for each individual to support reducing inflammation and building immunity.
5) We will look at your overall well being and discuss any areas that may be causing you anxiety or stress.
It is important to note that while it is widely reported that children are not as severely affected as adults when it comes to Covid infection, we have seen an increased number of children and teenagers presenting with telogen effluvium and chronic inflammation after infection.
What can you do if you are experiencing hair loss after a viral infection?
The good news is that telogen effluvium is rarely permanent and can respond well within a few months.
It is difficult and highly emotional when you are coming out of severe viral infection and then suddenly you are faced with prolific hair loss, but there are some steps you can take to help you.
1) Confirm the cause of your hair loss.
You can speak with your GP and explain your concerns, they should arrange for further blood tests, review your medication, and may then refer you to a dermatologist. In our clinic, we use the Nioxin Nioscope to magnify your scalp and advanced trichology software so that we can see what is going on, determine what phase your hair is in, and identify possible causes.
2) Try to minimise stress
We know this is easier said than done, particularly as things stand at the moment. The problem is that when we feel stressed, our bodies can feel that they are constantly in a “fight or flight” situation and so our energy is diverted from growing hair to more essential functions to protect us. This will prolong the period in which you will suffer from this condition. Mindfulness, meditation, and even simple breathing exercises can help with stress. Our nurse practitioner prescriber Fiona heads up the wellbeing at our clinic and is available should you wish to talk through your concerns and ways to help combat stress.
3) Take a good look at your diet
To repair and regenerate, your cells need the correct nourishment. After an event, you may find that you are lacking in the vitamins and nutrients that are essential for cell renewal. It is important to get advice before you start taking a high dose supplement as an overdose in certain vitamins and minerals can cause further side effects.
4) Adjust your hair care routine
Your hair needs gentle care when you are experiencing hair loss to minimise further loss but also to protect your scalp from irritation and to help promote growth. You should use a pH neutral shampoo that is free from parabens and avoid heat styling including blowdrying, curling or straightening.
5) Seek support
There are a number of solutions that can help stimulate cell growth and to prolong the time the hair stays in the anagen phase. It is important to seek expert advice on this. We work with leading trichologists alongside our nurse practitioner prescribers and hair loss technicians to ensure we match the hair loss solution to you as an individual. We can offer appointments at our clinic in Milton Keynes or via video meeting so you can talk through your concerns.
We hope that this article has given you a little reassurance that there are certainly some options for support and that you can get help to encourage growth.
If you would like to discuss any concerns regarding hair loss please contact our clinic on 01908 617266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org