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Mom Warns Parents After Curling Girl's Hair Triggers Seizure Symptoms from 'Hair-Grooming Syncope'

Mom.me logo Mom.me 7/11/2019 Kaitlin Stanford
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Alicia Brown Phillips

On July 7, Alicia Brown Phillips experienced what she would later call "one of the scariest moments" of her life. It's one that left the Tennessee mother and big sister so shaken, she later took to Facebook to share the details, in hopes they would one day help someone else.

The heart-pounding day began like any other Sunday morning, with Alicia curling her little sister Gracie's hair as they got ready for church.

But on this particular morning, something was different.

"I was maybe about five minutes in and she starts to gag a little and looks kind of pale," Alicia explained in her Facebook caption. "I asked her if she was going to get sick and she shook her head yes."

Alicia quickly ushered her two daughters out of the bathroom, and held Gracie's hair back as she leaned over the toilet, preparing to throw up.

But if Alicia thought this was just a case of passing nausea, or maybe the onset of a stomach virus, she was soon proven wrong.

"Thirty seconds later ... she looks at me," Alicia continued. "She is extremely pale with blue lips and starts to pass out."

As Alicia caught her sister in her arms, she took note of her pupils — they were huge.

Then, she screamed for help.

For one excruciatingly long minute, Gracie just laid there, "unresponsive and limp" with a blank look on her face.

"Her hands were also shaking," Alicia continued, adding that it was all "very seizure-like."

But then, almost as quickly as she'd passed out, Gracie came to and said she felt much better.

"She says she remembers hearing us talk but couldn’t see us," recalled Alicia. "I was crying. She was very confused."

The upsetting incident left Alicia with endless questions. And a few hours later, doctors at a local children's hospital would finally have answers.

"Turns out there is something called hair-grooming syncope [which] affects kids from ages 5-13," Alicia explained. "They said they see about 1-5 cases a year. Turns out brushing, curling, braiding, or drying can cause nerve stimulation on the scalp and cause some children to have seizure-like symptoms."

Um ... what?!

If you've never heard of hair-grooming syncope, you're definitely not alone. But believe it or not, the condition is relatively common.

According to research, it's a type of syncopy (which basically means "fainting") caused when nerve endings are triggered during various kinds of hair-grooming — including hair curling.

It's been known to also occur during hair-brushing and even made headlines back in 2011, when a 13-year-old Scottish girl named Meghan Stewart shared her story.

In Stewart's case, the issue was less of an isolated incident and more of an ongoing issue, because she claimed she couldn't brush her hair while standing up at all without fainting. Instead, she would brush her hair upside down, with her hair hanging over the side of the bed.

After sharing the story on Facebook, it's gone viral, with thousands sharing the post and many saying that they too have had this scary experience.

"When my daughter was younger, she had something similar," commented one woman. "She had a seizure when I was cleaning her pierced ears. She sat straight up, fell over stiff as a board and stared convulsing. Very scary."

"This also happened to my daughter a couple of times while doing her hair," another mom shared. "She turned green, very nausea[ted], couldn't see me, light-headed and very shaky. One time she fainted and smacked her head off of the wall. It was very scary. We went to a pediatrician and had her checked out, they even checked her heart. Everything came back fine ... Crazy, I have never heard of this before but this is exactly what happened to my daughter."

Others thanked her for spreading the word, because they too had never heard of the condition.

"Never heard of this," wrote one woman. "I am so glad that you were both okay. I know the big sister was scared to death. Thanks for sharing."

Pediatrician Dr. Kurt Brandt told WBIR that it's not exactly known what triggers the symptoms in certain instances over others.

"It may be the pulling of the hair, possibly pain, possibly stimulation of the scalp," he told the outlet. "Your blood pressure goes down and you pass out."

Whatever the case, Alicia says doctors assured her it wasn't life-threatening, and it wouldn't have any lasting health impacts.

"This is not dangerous," she says she was told. "They just faint and they come back and they're fine."

Still, that doesn't mean Alicia will be curling Gracie's hair again any time soon.

"I will never touch her hair," she told WBIR. "I won't put it in a ponytail, I won't brush it, I won't curl it, I won't do anything."

In her post, she says she was told that if Gracie ever starts to feel nauseous or light-headed while getting her hair done, she should sit down and take a break.

"I am putting this out there for others to see," Alicia shared. "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!"

I think I speak for everyone out there when I say duly noted, Alicia!

This story was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.

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