Hair-Grooming Syncope: What You Need to Know About a Fainting Disorder Caused by Hair Styling
A woman took to Facebook to share how her little sister experienced a rare condition that caused seizure-like symptoms after having her hair curled. Here's what you need to know.
Curling your little one's hair might seem like the most benign, everyday activity, but for a woman in Clinton, Tennessee, it was the trigger that set off a condition called hair-grooming syncope, which caused "seizure-like symptoms" in her little sister. Alicia Brown Phillips took to Facebook to share what she calls "one of the scariest moments" of her life, and the post quickly went viral.
"Hair-grooming Syncope... Look it up," Phillips wrote in a post shared on Sunday, July 7. "This morning, I was curling my little sister Gracie’s hair for church. I was maybe about five minutes in and she starts to gag a little and looks kind of pale. I asked her if she was going to get sick and she shook her head yes." She said that 30 seconds later, Gracie was "extremely pale with blue lips" and started to pass out.
"Her pupils got really big and I caught her," Phillips wrote. She screamed for help as her sister had "a blank stare and look on her face" and was "completely unresponsive and limp for about a minute."
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"Her hands were also shaking," the concerned sister noted. "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."
The family took the little girl to the local children's hospital where an EKG was performed, as well as a head scan. Ultimately they were told she was fine, and what happened was the result of hair-grooming syncope, which Phillips was told affects kids aged 5-13.
The doctors explained that they see "about 1-5 cases a year," according to Phillips' post. "Turns out, brushing, curling, braiding, or drying can cause nerve stimulation on the scalp and cause some children to have seizure like symptoms. I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THIS BEFORE! We were told if she ever starts to feel nauseous or lightheaded while getting her hair brushed to sit down and take a break." She explained that she wanted to share to spread awareness about the rare medical phenomenon.
Phillips' post has wracked up over 170K shares and 36K comments to date.
Snopes.com confirmed that syncope (another word for fainting) from hair styling is indeed real, citing a 1996 study, which defined the condition as "a rare and benign variety of neurocardiogenic syncope that should be considered in girls that complain of loss of consciousness during different hair care acts, even if seizures are present" and a 2009 study, which found that while this condition occurs most frequently in females, male children can also experience it.
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Experts believe that it happens when a nerve in the scalp communicates with the vasovagal nerve, which regulates blood pressure and heart rate. Hair styling can stimulate the nerve in a way that slows blood pressure and heart rate, leading to a loss of consciousness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that when kids and teens faint, they usually recover quickly and without lasting harm. Hydration can help preempt episodes, but any time your child faints, be sure to tell your pediatrician. Repeat fainting might be cause for a follow-up visit with a pediatric cardiologist who can run various types of heart tests.
In the meantime, it's reassuring to know that all is well for Gracie following her unnerving incident. Props to her sister for sharing her experience and spreading awareness about this concerning condition.