DELHI, India — In October 2020, Christie Syndor, 26, learned that her father had stage three lung cancer. She was struggling financially as a result of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Syndor is based in Shillong, India, and works as a business analyst for a US-based firm. Long working hours and stress at home led to missed meals and a sleep routine that was completely out of whack.
A few months ago, while brushing her hair, Syndor realized that she had a small bald spot at the back of her head, just above her neck.
“I stopped brushing my hair ever since the first bald spot appeared,” said Syndor.
“I was afraid to touch my head because every time I washed my hair, the drain would get clogged with clumps of hair.”
Hair loss during the pandemic has been shown to be related to a Covid-19 infection and triggered by the general stress caused by the pandemic. A study published in “Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists” says that hair fall is a consequence of Covid-19.
Experts believe that the extreme hair loss some people have been facing during the last couple of years is a byproduct of the immense stress caused by the pandemic coupled with other stressors. This type of hair loss is known as hair shedding or “telogen effluvium” in medical terms. It may occur even if you didn’t have a fever or Covid-19. Emotional tension can also cause a significant amount of hair to shed. Hair loss usually occurs two to three months after the stress-inducing event.
“Losing hair also causes emotional stress since it affects body image,” Ajit Negi, MD, Dermatology based in Shimla, told Zenger News.
“People worry about their appearance. Therefore, hair fall due to stress may cause more emotional stress. Keeping healthy, physically and mentally, is vital for healthy hair.”
Syndor didn’t leave her house for months unless she had to. She was very aware of the drastic change in her appearance.
“Last month, I asked a cousin of mine to shave my head since the shedding was out of control. At least now I am not collecting loose hair from all over the house,” said Syndor.
Syndor consulted a dermatologist and was given hair growth serums after her condition was evaluated. She is hopeful that her hair will grow back.
Recovering from a Covid-19 viral infection also imposes a massive strain on our bodies. Hair loss has been observed in high numbers among long-haul symptoms such as fatigue, cough, and muscle aches, according to medical studies.
A study, titled “6-month consequences of COVID-19 in patients discharged from hospital: a cohort study“, published in The Lancet reveals that 22 percent of Covid-19 survivors experience extreme hair loss post recovery from the infection.
“The first thing we need to understand while recovering from any illness is that our bodies have gone through extreme stress. The hair shedding, which is forced due to an illness, may last up to six to nine months post the infection,” said Negi.
Diksha Sharma, a 25-year-old IT professional based in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, suffered from Covid-19 in April 2021. But it was only almost two months post-recovery that she noticed her long hair was half the volume it used to be.
“I was aware that I was losing hair, but I waved off the concern as ‘seasonal’ hair fall,” said Sharma.
She later spoke to a couple of her friends who had also suffered from Covid-19 and complained about extreme hair loss. She then understood that her hair fell because of the stress on her body caused by the infection.
“I had to cut my long hair into a short bob, just to make it appear fuller.”
On average, a human can lose up to 100 hair strands a day, but if you are shedding hair, you may see clumps of hair falling out while brushing or washing your hair.
“You may lose between 300 and 400 hair strands a day if you are shedding. It is more noticeable in women since they generally have long hair,” said Negi.
Hair loss has become a common sign of the recovery process for persons who have been infected with the virus, usually happening three to four months after being ill but sometimes occurring sooner. Despite the fact that male-pattern baldness is more common than female-pattern baldness, telogen effluvium is more common in women, who often suffer it after childbirth.
Telogen effluvium, however, is temporary. Hair eventually starts to grow back to its original volume. Once the body is healthy physically and mentally, individuals can expect their hair to return to its normal fullness within six to nine months. But even after months, if you observe that your hair is still shedding, it might be something other than telogen effluvium.
“If you see a rash along your hairline or extreme itching with the hair loss, then it is necessary to consult a dermatologist,” said Negi.
Losing clusters of hair may lead to picking up random supplements, but Negi warns that they will probably be of no help.
“Change your diet to achieve the necessary dietary benefits for good hair growth. Eggs, pork, fish oil, spinach, white mushrooms are some items which have naturally available Biotin to help your hair grow,” said Negi.
“My experience with telogen effluvium is that your hair will grow back. But stressing about it will only cause more hair loss,” said Negi.
It is essential to maintain a good diet and sleep routine combined with daily activities that will help you alleviate stress during these challenging times.
Edited by Anindita Ghosh and Amrita Das
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