hair loss after septic shock: I got sepsis, and... - ICUsteps


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hair loss after septic shock


I got sepsis, and then went into septic shock in April, and was in the ICU and almost died. Three months after that I've started to experience MAJOR hair loss. It started about 2 weeks ago, and I would say that I have already lost 40% of my hair. I'm terrified. Did this happen to anyone else? And if so, did you lose all your hair? When does the hair loss stop? How long did it take for it to grow back? The last couple of days my scalp feels itchy and I read somewhere that this can occur just before a major shedding!! I'm freaking out... a major shedding and I might have no hair left. Please help!

36 Replies

I heard it explain in a few ways - each makes sense to me. Taking the sort of ‘put-down-an-elephant’ style of antibiotics necessary to overcome what we have suffered from may cause hair loss, others have stated that it is the body response to being in that much stress when critically ill - a sort of stress related alopecia. The other that I was told is that when we are that ill, the body decides which essential organs it is going to service. Hair & nails are not included. Nutrients stop & the hair follicle dies and is not renewed - hence it appears to fall out sometime after ICU. In fact it would have died anyway & under normal circumstances, would have been renewed. Now that you are up and running again, normal service will resume. Hair loss is normally TEMPORARY & COMMON amongst ICU patients. I lost a great deal but it is back to normal now.

I lost a lot of hair too about 3 months after going into 2 Comas and having Sepsis, pneumonia, Mrsa and organ failure. At one point I was losing so much hair I honestly thought I’d lose it all, luckily it was only temporary. After a few weeks it stopped falling out and started growing back.

Hello my name is Izzy i just wanted to say that i can totally relate to u i got mrsa too and phnemonia as well in the hospital wen into coma for two months was in icu and the ekmo machine it really is a miracle and a blessing to be alive anyone who survives this harsh condition is a fighther i jus want to say you are bless and god gave you a second chance at life now hun my question is did ure hair fall of completely because my hair is falling out by the second i don have much left its a matter a fact that i loose all of it i think can i ask how do you feel what side effects

I didn’t lose all of my hair, overall I lost about 50%. It’s still growing back, 2 years later. I’m lucky the only real side effects I have are memory loss, pain in my feet and slight damage to my vocal cords from the ventilator.

On February 8th I was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. I was transferred to the twin cities the next morning as my condition became grave. I was in respiratory failure. Upon arrival in Minneapolis my lungs were no longer able to supply oxygen to my heart. I went into cardiac arrest as a result. I was resuscitated. I was put on ECMO and dialysis for 3.5 weeks. I also suffered from septicemia. When I woke up I could not lift my arms more than 3 inches from my body. I had a gigantic pressure sore that extended across the entire lower portion of my back. Eventually, I needed surgery for that and after debriedment it was 7 cm deep. I currently have a wound vac to aid in the healing process. I also had two smaller pressure sores on my head. My scalp above the sores is terribly painful and semi-numb. I have been losing hair in large clumps. I am able to walk without a walker now. My lungs still hurt when I sneeze or breathe deeply. I 38 years old. I am so emotional all of the time. I wanted to reach out to you bc I see we have had a similar experience. This has been incredibly difficult and emotionally exhausting. I am nervous all of the time. I am paranoid that I’ll have to go back to the hospital. All of this has happened during COVID so it was like being on complete lockdown in the hospital. No family, no mail, nothing. I hope you read this and we can chat more.

Stay Blessed,


Hi love i went through something similar i had covid and pneumonia. I was in a coma for 28 days and Its been about 2.5 months since I been out of hospital/ rehab. I had to learn to walk again, I have bad pains in my lungs when I yown and sneeze or breath hard. I am 28 years old and my hair is all falling out. I noticed it 2 days ago. I have bad bald spots. I was on dyalisis for 18 days and had 9 blood transfusions. I also went septic. They did proning ( not sure if spelt right. ) on me and thankfully it helped so they didn't have to do ECMO. I prey for you and hope things get better.

Sepsur in reply to sagelexus

Most people recover their hair loss 😊

Hi! I am so grateful that you read and responded to my post. I am so sorry to hear that you too had to have such a traumatic experience. I am so happy that you are here with us! God is good 🙌🏽!

I have been loosing my heart for 6 months. It has now started to slow down. It is super thick at my roots. I am in a support group on Facebook for TE (Telogen Effluvium). This is the condition that we have. It starts with a trigger. With us it can be one or many things due to the traumatic experience we’ve been through. You should read this article. It helped me to understand a lot! You will lose a lot of hair, but it’ll grow back!!! Hang in there ♥️

I have heard of proning. However, they did not do that with me. When they tried to move me at all my sats would dramatically rise and drop. As a consequence I have been healing what once was a giagantic bedsore that almost reached my spine for the last 6 months.

Things do get better. Some quicker than others. I still have pain when I sneeze, but the pain with yawning has improved greatly. Make sure every hour you are deep breathing. It helps to retrain your alveoli to return to their normal state. After pneumonia the normally round alveoli flatten out like pancakes. They need to be retrained to stay open. Take a deep breath through your nose, hold it as long as you can, then let it out through your mouth slowly. Your lips should look like your whistling when you let the air out through your lips. This helps!!! I promise.

Again, so glad you reached out!!! Please feel free to talk to me whenever you need/want to. I’ll be praying for you!


Hello. I'm new here & am searching about my recent hair loss. I was hospitalized May 23, 2020 I was in septic shock, organ failure. I almost died. I had to have 7ft of my intestines removed& now have an ostomy bag.The surgeon told me before my surgery "I can't promise that you will make it through this surgery because of how sick you are, & you will NOT make it another 24/48 hours without the surgery. what I will promise is that I will do my best" those we're some extremely scary words. I was hospitalized for over 3months. Had to go to a rehabilitation center to learn to walk again, build some strength before I went home. I am SO THANKFUL for the team of medical professionals that saved my LIFE & very grateful that im here for my children. However the hospital/rehabilitation dropped the ball for follow up care for me (i honestly think its because they DID NOT expect me to survive). I haven't seen a DR since returning home & have lost about 75% of my hair. I dont have any of the medications im supposed to take, I'm also having issues with my stoma & can't afford to see a Doctor. I don't know what to do except go back to the emergency room. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!!!!!

I had sepsis in late November and had major hair loss in January plus my feet peeled and nails broke. Pleased to say it has all grown back and I didn't lose much more than half. I had a shorter version of my hair style and the regrowth acted like stilts so it looked thicker than it was! My hairdresser cut it so a bald spot was covered. It is nothing in the grand scheme of things...We are lucky to have survived at all let alone intact!! It is shocking as no one worns you I think. Good luck with it and your recovery. Eat well. I took zinc tablets. Health Span hair and nail treatment tablets. Not sure they worked but all back to normal now. xx

MrsD-unit in reply to sheila21

Hi Sheila, I had Sepsis, I was in hospital for 3 months where everyone admired my long, thick blonde hair. The nurses even used to style & braid it for me to cheer me up. I was horrified after coming home that each day I began loosing handfuls of hair. Very quickly I’d lost 30-40% of my hair. I stopped putting it in a pony tail. My hairdresser advised minimal washing Id feel comfortable with & a silk pillow case. However I believe it was coming out regardless so ended up having it cut quite short & within a couple of months I had the ‘fuzz’ of new hair all over my head! Further surgery caused less significant loss but now nearly 2 years later it’s back to normal, albeit much darker than my previous natural colour & with many more grey hairs!

I’d also add despite fighting for my life and 17 operations losing my hair bizarrely was one of the things that hit me hardest, so I really appreciate how you are feeling & how frustrating it is xxx

May I ask around what age you were when you lost hair from sepsis or other illness? Since I'm approaching 50, I feel a lot less optimistic about it growing back than if I was 30 years younger.

Sepsur in reply to jennjoom

I was 52, I am now 54 - full head of hair

madddie in reply to jennjoom

Hi Jennjoom my partner also had severe hair loss after being in i.c.u.Like yourself she was traumatised by this. However all her hair grew back healthier and thicker than before. It took a couple of month's.She is 65 so do not worry it will regrow. Good luck with your recovery x

diana1234 in reply to jennjoom

i'm 49 and it's growing back really thick and wavy. i hope it's not going to be so curly wurly but glad it's growing!

MrsD-unit in reply to jennjoom

I was 42, now 44

I Had some hair loss after 32 days in ICU but you may notice deep ridges in the nails which is I was told similar to hair so it can happen but I have got some of it back but I am at the age (63 male) I would expect some now anyway?

I had the same with my hair it was very distressing at the time, however, the hair grew back at first very wavy but soon grew back to it's original thickness. So don't worry.

I was in an induced coma for twelve days, waking up Dec 3. In Feb I went to a hairdresser I hadn’t seen in a few years and she told me my hair was thinning and I seemed to have a bald spot, but I didn’t see it and thought it was something that had happened gradually over the many years since I saw her. In March I started noticing my hair thinning myself, but it was odd because I wasn’t seeing extra hair on pillows or in the shower. By May I couldn’t take it any more, because not only did I see a lot of scalp but when I looked in the mirror I could see through the hair that was in back of my neck. And I had gone from using a four or five 8nch long Barrette to hold my hair to a baby barrette, which it escaped from.

At that point I was pretty hysterical about my hair ( despite not normally being terribly vain), so I bought a “topper”. It felt so good to just feel hair on my neck again. Fortunately, very soon after I got the topper the hair started coming in again. There is only a small amount of hair visible, and I am sure that I see it much more than anyone else. Today 8 was ou5 all day with my natural hair in a barrette, and although it was a baby barrette it was still an improvement, because

It was full enough that I didn’t need to adjust it at all.

So within less than five months, not only did the hair loss stop, but it started filling back in.

I have a short bob so my hair has taken about 4 months to regrow. I do think we should be warned about the possibility as it is a bit if a shock when it happens. You hair will recover. Be patient. xx

diana1234 in reply to sheila21

i feel that they should tell people that have been septic, it was something i wasn't prepared for. my hair is in a short bob now :)

I was in a coma last fall and had sepsis with multi organ failure. When I came home about a month later I noticed my hair falling out. I then realized about a week later I had three major areas where I had no hair on my head. Basically three bald spots. It took a couple months for my hair to start to grow in and when it did it was really fine. It grew in very slowly. Now, almost a year later it is thick and back to normal. I had freaked out too but on the inside. I was just really glad I was alive. I had even asked a couple DRs what caused it and I swear yet again no one was listening to me. They actually asked if I was the one pulling my own hair out! I had just said this had never happened to me before and all of a sudden realized my hair was gone when running my fingers through my hair. When your body recovers from this awful shock then you will have your hair grow back. My skin had also really suffered. Just give it time. I think it was from being so sick and laying in one position for weeks that caused inflammation in my scalp thus causing my hair to fall out. I remember when I woke up from my coma that I had the worst headache. Idk if it was like that for you but looking back on things it makes sense now. Use good quality shampoos and conditioners. Wash your hair every day to stimulate your follicles. Eat well, get lots of water and take a multi vitamin if you are allowed. Good luck!

Sir_vivor in reply to Tree-leaf

Thank you. I'm currently going through what you described . Makes me so angry that the doctors can't just let us know that hair loss could be a possibility after surgery, sepsis etc. I also noted that after laying in the hospital bed in a coma for a month and a half; my scalp was itchy and it hurt in certain areas like somebody had been bashing my head.

I had Sepsis from both pneumonia and strep throat when I was 26 in 2009, I am now 36. I was in an induced coma for the majority of my hospitalization, I was there for over a month. I had renal/kidney failure and every other possible complication. I was gravely ill and my family was advised at one point to come say goodbye as the doctors did not think I would make it past 24hrs. I was on life support and the machines were breathing for me. I too feel as though they should have prepared me for the loss of hair I experienced as I was shocked and worried as my hair was everywhere all over the place falling out and shedding. I lost 60% of my hair, it did however grow back even thicker and more beautiful than ever. It’s still absolutely amazing to this day. I believe I was told the same as a previous commenter that the body stops supplying everything but major organs when it goes into a state of acute failure. Our bodies have gone through severe shock and near death maybe even clinical death at which the hair does die, we are certainly lucky to be alive. Your hair should have grown back by now I just thought I would share my experience for future reference. Thankful we are all still here to tell about it.

Sir_vivor in reply to Sepsis09

Thank you for your comment,I just got out of the hospital after surgery for a ruptured sigmoid (colon). I went into septic shock, was put on a ventilator, put into an induced coma for a month and a half and came close to death many times. Anyway, I've been home for about one month and last week my hair started falling out at a massive rate. I was not told this could happen by any of the physicians in the hospital or when I went in for follow-up appointments. I was so shocked by this experience which has caused me so much stress. Thankfully, I found this website and now I can calm down knowing that others have had this experience and their hair grew back. May you have a healthy new year.

Bailey317 in reply to Sir_vivor

I was in hospital for a week for sepsis pneumonia. Before being Rescued by fireman and taken to the hospital, my long hair formed a Dreadlock at the nape of my neck. When I was finally able to get a hair appointment, it took my hairdresser three hours to comb it all out. Since then, I have been continually losing hair which I hadn’t before. I’ve lost about 50% of the volume. My doctors have still not contributed that loss to sepsis. I also got diagnosed with hypothyroidism after I got home, so they’re saying thyroid medication will help my hair grow back. I hope you have recovered. Did you stop losing your hair?

I had a ruptured appendix and developed sepsis last year march 2018 and was in an induced coma / hospital for two months. a month after i got home my hair started falling out all over the place at first some then tons of bald spots all over and in back especially - it's grown back now and it's really thick and wavy, don't worry it will grow back. i had really long thick hair i was traumatized. my scalp wouldn't lather up with shampoo at first it was like this wax all over my scalp feeling. and every single hair on my head hurt. don't worry it will grow! :)

LizzieB76 in reply to diana1234

Same! When my hair did grow back it was super curly! And I had long straight hair before it all fell out. After about 10” of growth the curls stoped and it started growing back the regular texture. It’s been 6 years now and I finally have my pretty long straight hair back.

reading all these posts really has made me feel like i am not alone. all the same experiences, thanks to everyone for sharing :)

MrsD-unit in reply to diana1234

It will get better soon ☺️

I had septic shock 6 years ago. I was in ICU for 12 days and hospitalized for 6 weeks. The same happened to me. I had hair down to my waist and all of it fell out about a month after I was released from the hospital. It’s devastating. Especially after going through so much pain and rehabilitation after the infection was cleared up. Hang in there.

Lizzie did you lose all your hair??? Bald?? What about eyelashes and eyebrows?? My grandson was just 3 when he got sepsis in April . By end of August we had to shave what little bit he had left off. He has lost all of his eyebrows and eyelashes. Dermatologist thinks its alopecia universal and said he thinks sepsis was just a coincidence as his hair is not growing fast enough. We are starting to see white bits of fluff hair growing but its very slow. Just wondering how long it took yours? I mean its November now so wondering now if it wasnt the sepsis

I mean how long did it take you to even get a skinhead of hair?

I had sepsis after c section, n was in icu with multiple organ failure.. but miraculously i survived cuz it was sepsis of unknown origin. Anyways after a month of recovery, 80% of my hair fell.. and i developed hypothyroidism.. now m on levothyroxine n thyroid levels are fine but hairs arw are falling again. The new one's that came in a year's time are falling now , m doing everything but nothing seems to help 😭. N i used to have veryyyyy long n beautiful hair so it hurts to see them so miserable now

I am in the same exact situation. Same thing happened to me. Same time frame as well. I am 62 and anxious about loosing any more hair. Mine comes out when I shampoo or brush it. I have lost about 40% as well. I started noticing my hair loss about 4 weeks ago. Itchy scalp too.

You story sounds just like mine. My sister suggested taking biotin to restore my hair and nails that also were damaged from sepsis? After about 3 months I could tell my hair stopped falling out by six months it was growing thick again and my nails stopped peeling and we're getting stronger? My frustration is my straight acting Lithuanian hair grew back as uncontrollable curl. It makes me cry to try and deal with it.

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