One possible longer-term side effect of COVID-19 is hair loss. A doctor explains why

KPRC 2 health reporter Haley Hernandez has a look at what doctors are saying.

HOUSTON – Doctors are rapidly learning about what could be long-term side effects of coronavirus including heart and lung damage. Now, a lot of patients are reporting something much less obvious — hair loss.

Dr. John Griffin from Kelsey-Seybold Clinic said this is one of those things that your body does to protect you. While your body is focused on the trauma (or the virus) at hand, it’s not worried about wasting energy to make hair. So, this really isn’t a bad thing.

However, for Christal Mercier of Missouri City, it doesn’t feel good.

She and her husband were hospitalized in April with complications of coronavirus. Mercier said she worried about her husband because he was on a ventilator but doctors were equally concerned about her.

“The day before they let me out he said ‘Miss Mercier, I’m really glad to see the way you look.’ He said ‘I was very, very afraid for you.’ I said ‘very, very afraid?’ He said ‘yeah you were not good at all. At all!’ They thought they were going to lose me,” she explained.

Now, she’s back at work after recovering from the deadly virus.

At her business, Hair by Christal, she lives out her passion of making wigs for people suffering from hair loss. It’s a job she was drawn to when her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, she is the one losing her hair. For her, this has been the most unexpected side effect of coronavirus.

"My hair has never been like this!" Mercier said.

She said her doctors said they're not sure if the sudden, dramatic hair loss is a direct link to the virus but a quick google search shows she's not alone.

Actor Alyssa Milano revealed her hair loss after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

For Mercier, thinning hair has never been an issue.

Why is this happening?

“Anytime you undergo a significant or severe illness or have a big strain on your body, there can be a delay between two and three months that you may notice hair loss,” Griffin said.

He’s confident it will eventually slow down, although, it may take months.

Griffin compares the hair loss to a dreaded side effect of pregnancy and delivery when women sometimes fear they’re going completely bald because of the large amount of hair loss.

Griffin said over-the-counter minoxidil (the ingredient in Rogaine) is safe to try if patients are unhappy with hair loss, but he believes it will grow back on its own.

Mercier said, temporary or permanent, she is trying not to dwell on thinning hair. After all, she came close to losing her life, but she now has a new appreciation for her talent.

“Every day I’m like ‘Lord when is this going to stop?’ But I still have life and He gave me the gift to make wigs. I just make it for myself now,” she said.