Illness and Hair Loss

How being ill might affect hair loss and alopecia

This week I’ve been suffering with flu symptoms. I’m obviously well enough to sit up now and type this, so I think I’ve had the worst of it, but during the last few days I’ve been literally flat on my back in bed. I’ve been shivering and dizzy with a high temperature and vomiting. I’ve now got a bad cold and a hacking cough, accompanied by a vicious sore throat. As I’ve been lying in my sick bed, I’ve been wondering whether a bout of illness like this is likely to cause more hair loss for a sufferer of frontal fibrosing alopecia.

Although I’ve been inspecting my pillow for strands of hair, I think that illness is unlikely to cause any immediate, out of the ordinary hair loss. Longer term, I know that illness, stress or any other trauma to the body can trigger hair loss, including (and possibly especially) for FFA sufferers. My first bout of hair loss was triggered by extreme stress over a few months. My hair fell out over a period of two or three weeks from my hairline, across my forehead and above my ears, leaving me with a sparse covering in this area. Hair loss which occurs after stress or illness (or pregnancy, for that matter) is called telogen effluvium, a non-scarring alopecia. According to my GP, this is what happened to me, although the dermatologist told me that I’d more likely got a scarring alopecia, and that because the hair loss was from the front and sides, this was a clear sign it would be FFA. Yes, I’m still very confused about that!

A low level of illness, such as the virus I’ve currently got, is not likely to see my hair fall out dramatically over the next few days. What it might do is contribute to weakening the hair follicles, which could lead to a bit of shedding in a few weeks or so, I suppose – and if it does, I’ll report back. But I actually think being ill has been quite good for my hair. I  washed it for the first time this morning since getting ill, so for six days I left it, giving the natural oils a good chance to coat the hair shaft. And it feels to be in pretty good condition. This time of year doesn’t do hair any favours, as confirmed by my hairdresser the other week. Bad weather and central heating all take their toll on the healthy look and feel of hair. Not washing it quite as frequently definitely seems to help, but better not to have to leave it unwashed because you are ill. I wouldn’t wish this virus on anyone!

Hope everyone’s staying well and warm. Roll on the spring!

Rachel x



2 thoughts on “Illness and Hair Loss”

  1. Thank you so much for your blog. I was recently told that I might have FFA. I’m still waiting for an appointment with a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. I have been trying to read on this condition, but there really isn’t much out there. I saw an article about possible correlation between foundation and sunscreen use which I’m going to stop using in hopes it will help with the inflammation. I was wondering if you might have any experience or comment on hair coloring…whether it had any effect good or bad.


    1. Yes I’ve heard about the possible link with sunscreen. I’ve never really worn much sunscreen (or foundation) on my face so I’m not convinced there is a link. In fact, I’ve started wearing an SPF 50 sunscreen every day only in the last few weeks, so we’ll see. Likewise, compared with a lot of women, I’ve not coloured my hair that regularly – maybe twice a year over the last few years only (I’m 52). Now that my grey hair is very noticeable, I debated whether colouring it would trigger more hair loss. As my hair loss seemed not to have worsened in about 9 months, I decided to try a hair colour. I had a semi-permanent at the hairdressers – that didn’t touch my scalp when it was applied and was only applied in strands to blend in the grey at the top with the rest of my hair (a bit like highlights). I didn’t have any bad reaction from that at all and I’m just about to book another appointment to have the colour applied again. I’m convinced that mine was triggered by stress and I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that I’ve lost as much as I’m going to. A lot of it has also grown back, which isn’t typical of FFA (which I was diagnosed with) and I’m sure this is due to all the things I did, such as Indian Head Massage.


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