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Add Hair Loss and Low Libido to Long COVID Complaints

Are you traveling and shopping without a mask? Would you be more careful if long COVID complaints included hair loss and sexual dysfunction?

At last count, more than 1 million people have died from COVID-19. That’s a tragedy, but death isn’t the only aftermath of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Long COVID has affected anywhere from 6% to 15% those infected. Taking a conservative number from the CDC of 6.9% from the fall of 2023, that would mean that roughly 18 million adults are suffering symptoms of long COVID. Scientists continue to discover new symptoms associated with this devastating condition. The latest long COVID complaints might get more attention than many of the others. That’s because they impact people in ways they really care about: sex and vanity (Nature Medicine, July 25, 2022). A new study in JAMA Dermatology (Jan. 10, 2024) reveals that total hair loss (alopecia areata) may also be a complication of long COVID!

Have Most People Stopped Caring About COVID?

Most people want to put COVID behind them. If you go to a supermarket, pharmacy, bank or big box discount store, 99% of the people around you are not wearing masks. That’s also true at sporting events, like basketball games where people are cheering and shouting when their team sinks a basket. Get on an airplane and hardly anyone seems to care about COVID.

No one knows how many people are catching COVID these days. That’s because positive home tests are not being reported. But hospitals are still testing when people come in sick.

According to USA Today (Jan. 18, 2024):

“Since Jan. 6, the CDC’s weekly hospital admissions data related to COVID-19 rose to 35,801…According to the CDC, the wastewater viral activity level for COVID-19 is ‘very high’ in 35 states.”

“More cases are expected, according to Johns Hopkins. ‘We’re coming out of a period when we already expected transmission to go up, due to increased travel and holiday gatherings. For the rest of January and into February, we will continue to have a high amount of respiratory virus activity that includes COVID-19 cases.’

What that means is that more people will continue to develop long COVID.

Long COVID Complaints Continue to Mount:

Doctors have developed a bunch of names for long COVID. They include:

Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC)
• Post-Acute Sequelae SARS-CoV-2 (PASC)
• Long-Haul COVID
• Long COVID
• Post-COVID Syndrome (PCS)
• Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome (PACS)

The AMA lists over 200 symptoms associated long COVID. Complaints include impairment of the sense of smell, overwhelming fatigue, shortness of breath and muscle or joint pain. Brain fog, memory problems, headache, insomnia, GI symptoms, dizziness and heart problems are just a few of the long-term complications of this infection.

People seem not to worry about these long-lasting complications of COVID even though they create a tremendous amount of disability for those affected. Why else would people be so casual about shopping, traveling and socializing indoors?

Maybe New COVID Complaints Will Capture Attention:

COVID-19 infections have been associated with autoimmune disruptions. People who have come down with the disease have later experienced worsening of conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Now dermatologists in Korea report that this infection may also contribute to the immune-linked hair loss condition called alopecia areata (JAMA Dermatology, Jan. 10, 2024).

The scientists reviewed nationwide medical records in Korea, comparing more than 259,000 people who got COVID to the same number of people who escaped infection between 2020 and 2021. Even after adjusting for other risk factors, people who recovered from COVID-19 were nearly twice as likely to develop alopecia areata as those who did not catch the infection.

The authors conclude:

“In this study, we found a significant increase in the incidence and prevalence of AA [alopecia areata] after COVID-19 even after adjusting for several confounding factors.”

Similar Long COVID Complaints

Researchers in the UK analyzed data from people at least 12 weeks after a COVID infection that did not require hospitalization (Nature Medicine, July 25, 2022). Nearly 500,000 people were included and matched to individuals who had not been infected.

They reported a surprising range of 62 symptoms that were much more common among those who had been infected. The most common were problems with the sense of smell, hair loss, sneezing, trouble ejaculating, reduced sex drive, shortness of breath without exertion and fatigue.

Did your eyes glaze over with that list of side effects? That’s not surprising. Most people lose interest after the first couple of adverse reactions. Why else would drug companies embrace the long list of complications that are included in virtually every prescription drug commercial you see on television? The advertising geniuses at big Pharma have figured out that people care far more about the exciting activities they portray than the scary side effects the announcer rattles off.

Just in case you missed them, the new long COVID study identified hair loss and sexual dysfunction as common post-COVID difficulties. Would the men and women we see ignoring COVID cautions be a tad more careful if they thought they would start losing their hair due to long-haul COVID?

What about libido? If there were signs in supermarkets, airports and restaurants that catching COVID could lead to sexual disappointments, would people be just a little more careful? Probably not. But it might be worth a try.

Other Long COVID Complaints:

In case you don’t care about hair loss or sexual dysfunction, what about brain fog? There are over dozens of other adverse reactions associated with long COVID including:

• Pain
• Rash
• Cough
• Shortness of breath and phlegm
• Nasal congestion
• Cognitive symptoms
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Insomnia
• Mouth ulcers
• Body aches

Those long COVID complaints are in addition to the ones already listed above.

Do You Care?

We doubt that any of these long COVID complications will change behavior. Most people assume that such adverse reactions won’t impact them. We hope, however, that the possibility of loss of libido, ejaculatory problems and hair loss might make some people think twice before engaging in risky behaviors.

You can learn more about long COVID at this link.

Please share your own experience with long COVID in the comment section below. Chances are that few, if any, of your friends or family care about long COVID complications. If, however, there is someone who you think would like to know that hair loss could be a consequence of long COVID, please send this article along. You can do that by scrolling to the top of the page and clicking on the email or social media icons. Thank you for supporting our work.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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  • Subramanian, A., et al, "Symptoms and risk factors for long COVID in non-hospitalized adults," Nature Medicine, July 25, 2022, doi: 10.1038/s41591-022-01909-w
  • Kim, J-S, et al, "Risk of Alopecia Areata After COVID-19," JAMA Dermatology, Jan. 10, 2024, doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2023.5559
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