Health Highlights: July 29, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Latest COVID-19 Issue: Hair Loss

Patients recovering from COVID-19 may be susceptible to losing their hair, USA Today reported Wednesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't list hair loss as a consequence of COVID-19, but more than 27% of 1,100 people who responded to a Survivor Corps Facebook poll said they lost hair.

Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, has seen an influx of COVID-19 patients who lost their hair.

"Patients have literally come in with bags of hair looking like a full head of hair was in the bag," she told USA Today. "They all have similar stories. That they were extremely sick with high fevers and have never been that sick in their entire lives."

Hair loss may not be due to the virus, but rather by shock to the body of having a high fever and other symptoms.

Hair loss can occur after surgery, major trauma, psychological stress, high, infection, or other illness. It can also result from weight loss, change in diet, hormonal changes, or iron deficiency, according to the Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, told USA Today that when the body experiences a shock to the system it forces hair to go from growing to resting to shedding.

That's why COVID-19 patients lose hair a couple of weeks to months after they recover from the infection, she said.

Patients' can temporally lose as much as 50% of their hair. Shedding decreases during the following six months and returns to normal.

It's not known why some patients lose hair and others don't. It may be genetic, Khetarpal told USA Today.

Although over-the-counter remedies might make hair grow faster, patients should instead eat a well-balanced diet and take vitamins that help hair grow, she said.

Patients with hair loss will also benefit by manage stress because stress and make the problem worse, Khetarpal said.

"Hair is our identity, it's a huge part of our culture and the shedding itself can cause a lot of stress," she said. "That can contribute to the problem and make things worse."


Face Masks May Make COVID-19 Less Severe

Wearing a face mask might cut down on how much virus you breathe in and lessen the severity of any infection, a new report suggests.

Masks can prevent spreading the virus to others, but they may also reduce the severity of symptoms, and for some, prevent infection altogether, researchers said Tuesday.

Different types of masks "block virus to a different degree, but they all block the virus from getting in," researcher Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, told The New York Times.

If some particles do get through, the disease might be milder, she added.

The researchers gleaned their findings from animal experiments and observations during the pandemic.

Dr. Tsion Firew, an emergency physician at Columbia University in New York City, told the Times that the findings aren't definitive.

But, the study "reiterates what we say about masks," she said. "It's not just a selfless act."

That face masks can lessen disease severity, while not proven, "makes complete sense," said Linsey Marr, an expert in virus transmission at Virginia Tech, told the Times. "It's another good argument for wearing masks."

Masks aren't a substitute for other measures like physical distancing and hand-washing, but they are easy and sustainable, Gandhi said. It's "as simple as covering up the two holes in your face that shed the virus," she explained.

Her report will be published in the August issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.


Rich Get Better Sleep Than the Poor

In a survey of nearly 140,000 adults, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more money means a better night's sleep.

Only 55% of those living below the poverty level slept seven to eight hours a night, compared with 67% of those making 400% above the poverty level, the researchers found.

CDC epidemiologist Lindsey Black told CNN that, "Sleep affects many aspects of well-being and quality of life for people of all ages."

"People with more resources are able to afford homes that are in quieter locations -- more space, less people-density and better sound-proofing," Dr. Neil Kline, a sleep physician at the American Sleep Association, told CNN. "People with more resources can also afford more healthcare when it relates to sleep disorders."

Adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, says the American Sleep Association.

"Too often, we prioritize work and social events over our sleep," Kline said. "When we don't receive adequate sleep, we do not function at our peak and we increase the risk for poor health outcomes."

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