A Tennessee woman is speaking out after her sister was sent to hospital due to a condition that causes seizure-like symptoms simply by touching or curling a person’s hair.
On July 7, Alicia Renee Phillips was curling her 10-year-old sister Gracie Brown’s hair for church when she noticed the young girl turning pale. The Clinton, Tenn. woman who has three children of her own, took to social media to share the ordeal in a now viral Facebook post.
“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,” Phillips wrote. “I get my little daughters out of the bathroom and start to hold her hair up for her as she leans over the toilet. 30 seconds later... she looks at me. She is extremely pale with blue lips and starts to pass out. Her pupils got really big and I caught her.”
After calling her husband for help, Phillips said Brown became “unresponsive” but her hands were shaking.
“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,” she said. “My mom and dad rush to my house and a few hours in Children’s hospital, an EKG, and a head scan later... she is fine.”
The emergency room physician at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville diagnosed Brown with hair grooming syncope, a children’s condition in which touching, combing or cutting hair causes temporary loss of consciousness (fainting).
Despite occurring in both young boys and girls, a 2009 study notes that approximately 78 per cent of all hair-grooming syncope cases are female adolescents around the age of 11. A separate 2013 study revealed that in most instances, syncopal episodes including those with seizure-like symptoms of “body twitching” or “eye fluttering” occur for less than one minute and are considered a non-epileptic event after extensive physical and neurological examinations. In some cases, the child had experienced syncope before, or had a relative with a history of fainting.
“I have never heard of this before,” Phillips said of the diagnosis. “We were told if she ever starts to feel nauseous or light headed while getting her hair brushed to sit down and take a break.”
In an interview with Good Morning America, Dr. Sonia Batra said when it comes to hair-grooming syncope, it all comes down to sensitivity to touch.
“Hair-grooming syncope is a similar response to people who faint from having their blood drawn or at the sight of blood,” she explained. “We think it is the same vagus nerve response that causes the drop in blood pressure, hence the blackouts, in all of these situations.”
Since the incident, Phillips says Brown is doing well, but is advising parents to keep an eye out for any of the symptoms in their children.
“I am putting this out there for others to see,” she said. “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!”