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'Can COVID Live on Hair?'

brushing hair
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNAugust 17, 2020

You’re standing in line at the grocery store when the person behind you coughs, and in that instant you wonder if the back of your head is now coated with coronavirus particles. You starting thinking maybe instead of just washing your hands when you get home, you should also shampoo.

But can COVID-19 live on hair? More specifically, can the virus that causes COVID-19 spread by hitching a ride on someone’s tresses?

Experts believe it’s unlikely.

Any virus – including SARS-CoV-2 – can cling to human hair. But merely being deposited on strands of hair does not mean the virus can make you sick. The coronavirus weakens pretty quickly once it’s outside the body. In other words, the virus can be present on a surface like your hair but not be strong enough to make you sick if you transfer it into your body.

If you tend to chew on the ends of your hair, then maybe you could get sick from picking up the virus on your hair. So, don’t chew your hair.

For the rest of us, it’s technically possible but not probable that you’ll pick up the virus from your hair because your hair – whether on the face or the head – regularly receives a coating of oil from the skin or scalp to protect it. This slippery coating not only makes it difficult for germs to stick to strands of hair, but it has an antimicrobial effect that may cause the germs to die more quickly.

So, in general, you shouldn’t feel too concerned about picking up the coronavirus from your hair. But if you do worry, then you can shampoo or shower more frequently (and maybe have your kids wash their hair more often, too, if they’ve gone back to school).

To stop this virus from spreading, it’s more effective to focus your attention on wearing a mask every time you go out and avoiding close contact with anyone outside your household. Stay at least six feet away (and farther is better) from other people when you’re out. And, yes, keep washing your hands frequently – but don’t worry about shampooing every time you come home from the store.

 

 

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