Last updated 20th January 2021

COVID-19 and Alopecia Areata

We know that these are difficult times and that many of you may be feeling anxious. We have had lots of enquiries, asking if people with Alopecia Areata are at an increased risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. We asked two alopecia experts, Dr Matthew Harries and Professor Andrew Messenger for their thoughts:

Alopecia Areata itself does not compromise the immune system or cause immune deficiency and there is no reason to think that people with Alopecia Areata are more at risk from COVID-19 than the general population, either in terms of catching the virus or being more severely affected by it.

The exception may be anyone being treated with oral drugs that suppress the immune system. These drugs include steroid tablets, azathioprine, methotrexate, ciclosporin, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and JAK inhibitors. We advise that anyone to whom this applies should contact their dermatologist. We do not expect that the use of topical products, such as steroid creams or lotions, diphencyprone lotion and steroid injections into the scalp, will increase the risk of infection by COVID-19"

You can check out the latest advice regarding immunosuppressent drugs from the British Association of Dermatologists here.

Another question we have been asked is whether people with no nasal hair are more likely to become infected by COVID-19. Dr Harries and Professor Messenger said:

“We do not know the answer to this question, and it would be extremely difficult to research it. However, as far as we know, people with Alopecia Areata, including Alopecia Universalis, do not have an increased risk of other viral infections acquired by a nasal route, such as the common cold or influenza.”

We recommend everyone follows the NHS advice around reducing the risk of picking up infections including thoroughly washing your hands frequently, practicing good hygiene and avoiding contact with people who are unwell. If you think you may have symptoms of, or have been exposed to, coronavirus (COVID-19), get advice from the NHS on what to do: visit the NHS online coronavirus service or call 111.

COVID-19 Vaccines

In light of the recent vaccines, we have started to receive many questions about whether the new COVID-19 vaccines will have any impact on alopecia areata/autoimmune conditions. Dr Harries and Professor Messenger add: 

"It is difficult to comment on questions relating to the COVID-19 vaccines and alopecia areata/autoimmune conditions as there is not any evidence to say whether the vaccines will have any impact at all on a person's alopecia areata/autoimmune condition. However, many people with alopecia areata and other autoimmune conditions have other vaccines successfully each year without any negative effects." 

Alopecia UK is unable to provide any medical advice about the COVID-19 vaccine but we can signpost to further available reading which we hope will help you. 

  • The British Association of Dermatologists have provided a Provisional Guidance Document about the COVID-19 vaccination. This includes information that will be helpful to anyone who is currently taking immunosuppressant drugs for their alopecia. 
  • Public Health England has provided information about the vaccines to public health professionals here
  • There is lots of additional reading about the vaccines on the COVID-19 Prevention Network's website
  • Information for healthcare professionals and the public about the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine here
  • Information for healthcare professionals and the public about the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine here
  • Information for healthcare professionals and the public about the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine here.
  • The British Society for Immunology have issued this statement.
Since the publication of the eligible groups for the vaccine, we have received queries about whether having alopecia areata puts a patient in a higher priority group for the vaccine. Alopecia areata (along with other autoimmune hair loss) is not on the clinical conditions list. However, some alopecia patients who are taking certain medications may be included in the 'long-term health conditions' group if they are taking a drug that is considered to lower immunity. Doctors will be contacting patients affected when the time is appropriate. You can find out more about the priority groups, including the clinical conditions list here
Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site
You can report suspected side effects to medicines, vaccines or medical device and diagnostic adverse incidents used in coronavirus treatment to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to ensure safe and effective use, here

Participate in COVID-19 Research

A patient registry called “SECURE-Alopecia” has been developed by respected hair researchers, Professor Rod Sinclair and Dr Dmitri Wall, to record COVID-19 positive alopecia patient outcomes. If you have alopecia and develop COVID-19, whether or not you are on any treatment, please contact your GP or dermatologist, and ask them to enter your details into the registry. You can read further details here

Looking after your mental health

It is not surprising that people are feeling worried in these challenging times. We are dealing with a huge amount of uncertainty and this is not something many of us deal well with. It is important that we take care of ourselves and be kind to each other in the challenging times ahead. If you are finding things difficult, you might want to read our blog post here.

For more information about how to look after your mental health during these challenging times, follow the links below:

How to stop overthinking

How to stop worry

Self-help guides for anxiety and depression

COVID 19 and your wellbeing

NHS health and wellbeing (including audio guides)

Money worries - Money Saving Expert advice

There are also some helplines if you are finding things difficult and would like to speak to someone. You can find a list here.