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Extreme hair loss after corona: ‘I pulled bunches out of my hair at the same time’

Not being able to smell, taste and catch a cold. These were also the complaints that Jolanda Schepers from Aarle-Rixtel in Brabant had last year. Because corona had only just surfaced in the Netherlands at that time, she did not immediately think of a corona infection. But when she started to lose hair, she still rang the bell to the doctor.

‘Tested on everything, nothing came out’

“Hair loss was not known as a corona symptom. That is why it was first thought that it would be a combination of the contraceptive pill and a possible menopause. I stopped taking the pill, but my hair loss did not stop. I wanted more research, so I was sent to the dermatologist. I was tested on everything you can think of, but nothing came out. I was sent home with the assumption that it would be a normal course of old age. “

Schepers felt crazy, unrecognized in her problems and decided to collect the hair she lost in bags. “I saved up everything and then showed the dermatologist that this is not normal. I am 48 years old, this is not my age. I sat there crying asking for help.”

After Schepers had seen an item on television about an American actress with hair loss after a corona infection, she asked the doctor if her blood could be tested for antibodies against the virus. “Then the doctor called and said, ‘We’re sorry, you’ve had corona, it’s probably also causing your hair loss.”

Schepers was referred to a hair specialist who also gave confirmation after months of uncertainty: she had lost more than 80 percent of her hair due to the corona virus.

‘Constantly afraid of losing hair’

“I was so sad. It fell out everywhere. I no longer dared to move, no longer comb my hair, no longer run my fingers through my hair. I was constantly afraid of losing more hair. And if woman you just don’t want that, you are ashamed of your own haircut, of the bald spots that everyone can see. “

Read on under the box

‘1 in 4 corona patients in hospital will have hair loss’

Dermatologist Rick Waalboer-Spuij of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam tells RTL Nieuws that people always lose hair. This normally happens in stages, so that you don’t go bald all at once. However, with a lot of stress or a severe illness, that process can be disrupted, causing many more hairs to fall out at once. This is also the case with an infection with the corona virus. “International studies show that approximately 25 percent of corona patients who have been hospitalized experience hair loss.” This may be because a fever – which many corona patients have had – can cause hair loss. In addition, a possible explanation lies in the fact that hair follicles are very dependent on oxygen-rich blood. “Covid-19 may have given those hair follicles less oxygen.”

The hair loss usually occurs about two months after the start of the first corona complaints, according to the study. You do not have to have been very ill, because people with milder corona complaints can also suffer from hair loss, says Waalboer-Spuij. “If someone experiences a lot of stress, this can already lead to complaints such as hair loss. You do not necessarily have to have or have had corona for that. It can also occur in people who experience stress through self-isolation or quarantine, for example.”

It is striking, according to the dermatologist, that the search term ‘hair loss’ on the internet has increased enormously internationally since the corona virus. The Nederlands Huisartsen Genootschap said in a response that more research is needed to find out more about a possible relationship between hair loss and corona.

Schepers is not the only one in the Netherlands who is struggling with extreme hair loss after a corona infection. In a private Facebook group for (ex-) corona patients, dozens of people responded to a question as to whether hair loss due to corona is recognizable.

‘I wear a wig’

This is also the case with Jolanda Lievens (65) from Almere. She ended up in the corona department of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam at the end of December. Fortunately, she was allowed to leave it after a number of exciting days, but she is still recovering. The biggest after-effects? “My hair. It’s gotten so bad now that I’m wearing a wig.”

When Lievens found the first large tufts in her brush, she called the doctor. He couldn’t do anything for her, it would just be part of corona. And when Lievens told her lung doctor, he also said the virus was the culprit. “He had had many more patients with this problem. The body had to fight, and this was just part of it.”

‘It became less and less’

Although there was nothing she could do about it, it was very annoying for Lievens to pull strands of hair out of her head every day. “At one point home care came to take a shower, and therefore wash my hair. I brushed it through beforehand and I saw whole wads in my hands. Then in the shower I felt whole tufts along my body entering the shower drain. The hair flew from my head on my dressing gown when I blow-dried. It became less and less, it was terrible. “

After she was forced to cut her hair short, Lievens also had to decide to wear a wig. “I have cried a bit, that’s not normal. I’ve always been extremely proud of my beautiful, shiny, long hair. It hurts a lot to have to wear a wig now. But on top of my head I’m just bald, it was no longer to be seen. “

Good hope for recovery

Lievens also thinks she lost at least eighty percent of her hair after being infected. Yet, like Schepers, she is in good spirits that it will one day grow again. “I hope it will come back, yes, luckily I hear good signals about it. Then I also hope that my eyebrows and eyelashes will grow back, because I have lost a lot of those too.”

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