The former Charmed and Who’s the Boss star opened up on Twitter about her experience with the coronavirus, specifically the hair loss she’s enduring.
In the video posted Sunday, Milano brushes through her hair to show clumps coming out.
“Wear a damn mask,” she wrote.
Milano claims she began experiencing coronavirus symptoms in March. She also posted an Instagram photo, which she says she took on April 2, and she’s wearing an oxygen mask two weeks into the illness.
“I had never been this kind of sick,” she wrote. “Everything hurt. Loss of smell. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t keep food in me. I lost 9 pounds in 2 weeks. I was confused. Low grade fever. And the headaches were horrible. I basically had every Covid symptom.”
Milano said that after initially testing negative for coronavirus and its antibodies, she continued to have symptoms for four months, including vertigo, period irregularities, stomach abnormalities and heart palpitations. Frustrated, she took another antibody test and it came back positive — meaning she did have COVID-19.
The actor is not the first to list hair loss as a COVID-19 side effect. Canadian dermatologists have said that some COVID-19 positive patients are contacting them in a panic, saying their hair has started to fall out.
Dr. Jeff Donovan, a hair loss specialist in Whistler, B.C., and president of the Canadian Hair Loss Foundation, says he’s seen some cases in his clinic, though he’s not sure how common this is overall. “Certainly we are realizing now that it is part of the spectrum of conditions, but we don’t yet have the numbers.”
The problem patients are reporting is called telogen effluvium, said Toronto-based dermatologist Julia Carroll. It’s a well-known condition that’s often a reaction to a high-stress situation, whether it be severe illness, or even strong emotional stress. It generally causes an overall thinning of hair all over the scalp, rather than bald patches.
However, tying this kind of hair loss specifically to the SARS-CoV-2 virus is tricky, said Donovan, as many things could cause increased “shedding” of hair.
Hair loss was reported among patients who caught the Spanish Flu in 1918, he said. High fevers and other severe symptoms seem to contribute to developing the condition.
The emotional stress of living through a pandemic can take a toll too, including among people who had mild symptoms of COVID-19, he said, or even people who haven’t had the disease at all.
While Carroll believes that this phenomenon is due mostly to stress, Donovan thinks it may also be directly tied to the virus.
“I think it would be a mistake to say that these people are shedding simply because of stress. This is a complex virus. It does many things to every organ in the body that we don’t yet understand.”
Both doctors agree that the hair — usually — grows back, and this condition is not permanent.
Milano concluded her Instagram post with helpful messaging for those questioning the veracity or severity of the illness.
“I just want you to be aware that our testing system is flawed and we don’t know the real numbers,” she wrote. “I also want you to know, this illness is not a hoax. I thought I was dying. It felt like I was dying. I will be donating my plasma with hopes that I might save a life. Please take care of yourselves. Please wash your hands and wear a mask and social distance. I don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt.”
— With files from Global News’ Leslie Young