Your Taste And Smell Might Not Be The Only Things You Lose If You Get Covid
This is not a post about vaccines or masks or the politics of Covid. I think most of that has been talked about at great length.
What has not been talked about much are some of the parting gifts those who have experienced a Covid Infection are left with.
Let me start by saying that I realize that each person is different, and each circumstance is different. Let me also say I am in no way claiming to be a medical professional.
What I am trying to do is to bring some peace of mind to those who are or will experience what I've been going through in the aftermath of this nasty virus: sudden hair loss.
Yup. You read that right. I'm losing my dang hair!
Let me explain.
For as long as I can remember, I have been the one in my family to have probably 3 people's worth of hair on my head.
I'm known for it. My locks are huge and unruly most of the time.
Hairstylists have commented on it, dreading that my answer will be "yes" when they ask if I'd like them to dry it after a cut, because it takes a ridiculous amount of time.
There's just so much of it (which I have always been grateful for.)
Fast forward to this past summer, when like much of the world's population, I came down with Covid.
In fact, my entire family got it. I was sick...sicker than I have ever been before in my life. I had everyone worried for a while.
Thankfully, aside from a few pounds and my sense of taste and smell, I didn't lose anything else. I was lucky, and I acknowledge that.
A few months later, at the end of a particularly rough day, I hopped into the shower with the plan of just drifting off to sleep afterward.
Because I have so much hair, and it's pretty normal for me to shed a bit, I have taken to gently combing my hair in the shower, after I condition it. I usually end up with a little silver dollar-sized hairball in my hand, which I toss into the trash. No big deal.
Well, this night was different.
I ran the comb through and on the first swipe, a pretty big fist full came out.
Second swipe, the same.
My stomach dropped and I got flush with panic.
At the end of the shower, I grabbed hair behind my head and went to right it out into a ponytail, like I always do. That ponytail was significantly thinner than it had been the day before.
Trying not to panic, I texted my mom to see if she was still up, as it was probably about midnight. She was and I called to tell her what happened. She recommended I call my hairstylist to see what she thought of the situation.
The next morning I did just that and was surprised to hear her say "It might be because of Covid. I've been seeing that happen a lot more lately."
I had heard and experienced the loss of taste and smell. In fact, it took a couple of months for mine to come back.
But I had never heard of people losing their hair. So a friend of mine helped me dig around a bit, and sure enough; it's a thing.
According to the Clevland Clinic, dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, says there's actually a name for it; Telogen effluvium, a nonscarring hair loss that is the result of an abnormal shift in follicular cycling.
Dr. Khetarpal says the hair loss is a result of a shock to the system.
"There are three phases in the hair follicle growth cycle: anagen (growth), catagen (resting) and telogen (shedding). Generally speaking, about 90% of hairs are in anagen, with 5% in catagen and 5% in shedding in telogen. In telogen effluvium, the proportion of hair follicles in the telogen phase increases significantly, up to 50%, leading to mass shedding," says Dr. Khetarpal.
The hair loss tends to start up between 2 and 3 months after someone's had the virus.
The good news: The hair loss seems to be temporary. Dr. Khetarpal says it does take time to grow the hair back, but it does grow back.
Why is this important to talk about?
Yes, it's just hair. But for a lot of us, our hair (or lack thereof) is part of what makes us who we are. And to have it inexplicably fall out without knowing why can be unnerving.
I wanted to share my experience to let others know that it is indeed a thing and that it looks like it's temporary.
As much as the illness itself can cause hair loss, stress can, too. So if there's a way to reduce your stress with a little knowledge, that's the intent here.
Personally, as much as my big hair played a part in my identity, I'm just grateful to have made it out through the other end of the illness. I'm trying to deal with my hair loss as I do with most other challenges that come my way; with a sense of humor.
I've been wearing my hair back in braids a lot.
And while I've never really been a hat person before, I looked at the situation as an opportunity to change my look up a bit!
Thankfully, I have a job in which people don't really see me as much as they do hear me. So that helps.
But fear not my follicly-challenged friends! If you're losing your hair because of Covid, there will come a day when you stop shedding the equivalent of a small cat in the shower AND it will start to grow back.
I hope that knowledge helps take the fright out of the situation. Stay safe out there.