Tennessee mom warns of rare seizure-like condition triggered by styling your child's hair

Alicia Brown Phillips

A Tennessee mom is warning of a rare and bizarre condition that's triggered by styling hair.

Alicia Brown Phillip's scary experience about styling her sister's hair before church has gone viral, with more than 213,000 shares.

Phillips said she was curling her sister Gracie's hair for church per usual, when something terrifying happened.

Gracie started to look very pale and gag. She told her older sister that she was going to be sick.

Phillips said she got her young daughters out of the bathroom to care for Gracie, whose lips are turning blue at this point as she starts to pass out.

Gracie has a blank stare and look on her face and is completely unresponsive and limp for about a minute. Her hands were also shaking. Very seizure like. She then comes back to and says she feels much better. She says she remembers hearing us talk but couldn’t see us. I was crying. She was very confused.

A trip to a children's hospital later, complete with an EKG and head scan -- Gracie was "fine."

As it turns out, Gracie has something called hair-grooming syncope. Haven't heard of it? A Tennessee hospital says it's pretty rare, but can be triggered simply by brushing hair.

Vanderbilt Neurology Dr. William Nobis describes hair-grooming syncope:

Hair-grooming syncope is, very simply put, fainting caused by stimulation to you head/hair. Anyone can experience syncope, or fainting, with the right kind of provocation- for most people this is more common things like dehydration, standing too long, stress inducing situations, or a combination of these factors but for some people there are other things that activate the nervous system that can cause syncope - like using the bathroom or laughing. Syncope occurs when your blood pressure drops and your body has trouble getting blood to the brain. In patients with hair-grooming syncope, the act of combing/cutting/braiding hair can produce these same responses and cause fainting.

The condition affects kids under age 18, Nobis said, Brushing, curling, braiding or even dying hair can cause nerve stimulation on the scalp and cause children to have seizure-like symptoms.

I am putting this out there for others to see. If a kid ever complains of their belly hurting or feeling light headed while they are getting their hair done, make sure they take a seat and keep a close eye on them! Apparently very rare but so scary to see it happen!

So what should you do if you experience hair-grooming syncope? Nobis has this to say:

If you experience hair-grooming syncope lay down, stay well hydrated and make sure you return back to your baseline. If there is an extended period of loss of consciousness or confusion, or there were movements concerning for a seizure such as extended period of rhythmic jerking of extremities, then seek medical attention. Make sure your doctor is aware in case they may feel further testing is necessary, but in most cases no further testing is done.
If you do experience it, the risk can be greatly lessened by grooming your hair when sitting and by staying well hydrated.

Nobis said it's unclear exactly how many cases are specifically hair-grooming syncope, but Vanderbilt University Medical Center does see several emergency room cases a year.

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