The novel coronavirus or the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19 infection has been in the news for the past few months.
The patterns of transmission of the SARS-Cov-2 virus have been traced and found very similar to most of the other viruses of the coronavirus family. They are resilient and can survive on multiple surfaces for extended periods. Recent studies that have been published in the leading scientific journal- Lancet that have also pointed towards its ability to survive on several surfaces for multiple hours or days.
But what does all this have to do with our hair? The humble black/ brown/grey keratin strands that occupy our heads. Can they spread COVID-19?
Can my hair be a source of COVID-19 infection ?
The answer is- NO. Theoretically, there can be numerous situations of exposure , but these situations eventually resulting in infection is an extremely low possibility.
Our hair is exposed to a lot of stuff in the air- fragments, pollutants, and even aerosol droplets. Even then, it’s not a matter of worry or concern for you- You don’t have to shampoo your hair every time you come back from the grocery store.
To understand what causes infection and what does not, we have to dive a little deeper into the microbiology, aerodynamics principles, and infectious disease patterns.
Studies show that some small viral particles can float in the air for about half an hour. However, they do not swarm like gnats and are not likely to collide with your clothes. A droplet, which is small enough to float in the air, is also not likely to deposit on your clothing or fabric.
Hence, it is highly unlikely that you could get the infection through items of daily use- clothing, footwear, and similarly- hair.
There are, however, two exceptions to this- this does not apply to hospital-based settings where there may be more virus particles, and it is also not applicable if you are taking care of someone who is down with the COVID-19.
What about surfaces?
According to a study that was conducted by US-based researchers, it was estimated that the coronavirus that is responsible for COVID-19 could remain intact on multiple surfaces for up to 72 hours.
Similarly, a study that was conducted by researchers from the University of Bonn, Germany, said that viral RNA was found from up to 3% of samples of the most frequently used or touched objects; for example doorknobs and handles and up to 15% of the samples that were taken from washroom and toilets.
A research study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the presence of COVID-19 for up to two-three days on plastic and stainless steel and up to 24 hours on cardboard.
As there has been no scientific study published on linking transmission to hair, we will have to resort to comparisons with fabric, cardboard, steel, and general surfaces for now.
As we see the unlock process rolling out around the world, it’s important to keep in mind what professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, The Department of Science and Technology (DST) says: “Safe and effective strategies, technologies and products for disinfecting spaces, surfaces and various objects become increasingly critical in breaking the chain of virus transmission.”
Hair Hygiene and COVID-19
Unless someone directly coughs upon your hair, and you touch it frequently, there does not seem to be any risk associated with this mode of transmission. However as a general rule of thumb, there are essentially 3 steps that can save you from contracting the COVID-19, and those are:
-Keeping at least 6 feet of distance between two people (however repeated this fact is, social distancing is the safest way to get out of the pandemic)
– Wearing a mask whenever you’re heading out
-The most important is washing your hands with soap and water multiple times a day.
Washing your hair too frequently with shampoo and water is neither healthy for your scalp nor advised. This is because your scalp produces natural oils, and they provide a layer of a protective coating over your hair, preventing it from excessive dryness or even microbial infections. Hence, disrupting your hair hygiene is not advised.
As complex as the pandemic situation is today, the solution is simple. Fortunately, the novel coronavirus can be easily removed from your hands if you wash your hands frequently with soap and water and practice social distancing and wearing a mask whenever heading outdoors.