A Tennessee woman was helping her 10-year-old sister get ready for Sunday school. One moment she was styling her sister's hair, and the next, her sister had collapsed and they were on their way to the emergency room.
"It was very scary," Alicia Renee Phillips told USA TODAY.
The diagnosis for her sister Gracie Brown?
Hair-grooming syncope, which is fainting associated with combing or brushing of one's hair.
If you've never heard of it before, you're not alone. Phillips, of Clinton, Tenn. hadn't either, so she went to Facebook to urge people to "look it up." The now-viral post has garnered 45,000 comments and 219,000 shares.
Very little is out there about the condition.
Not that common, but not that rare
A doctor who co-authored a 2009 study of fainting among adolescents found that of more than 1,500 kids who fainted over a nine-year period, 111 of them had a hair-grooming trigger determined as a cause. That is about one child a month, said Dr. William Evans, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Medicine.
"It's not that common, but it's also not that rare," Evans told USA TODAY, adding that it's not life-threatening unless a child were to hit his or her head in a lethal way when fainting.
"If you see your kid pass out, it’s pretty shocking. You’re going to rush your kid to the hospital. Most people are not nonchalant."
The symptoms leading up to fainting are dizziness, disorientation, flushing, tingling, loss of vision, and nausea.
The condition is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure.
"Our blood vessels are under the control of the autonomic nervous system and keeps them ready to adjust the blood pressure and blood flow, especially to the brain no matter what activity we're doing," Evans said. "So this constant adjustment is going on and for whatever reason the mechanism that controls the blood pressure fails and makes you feel light headed and you pass out."
The condition happens far more to girls than to boys. His study found of the 78% of the hair-grooming syncope patients were girls.
Phillips said she was curling her little sister's hair when her sister grew pale and began to gag. She rushed her own three daughters out of the bathroom.
Phillips then called Gracie's mother, Lisa Brown, to let her know her daughter wasn't feeling well.
When she returned to the bathroom, Gracie's lips had turned blue and she collapsed, she said in her post.
"Gracie has a blank stare and look on her face and is completely unresponsive and limp for about a minute," she wrote. "Her hands were also shaking. Very seizure like."
When Gracie came to, Phillips was crying and Gracie was confused. Meanwhile, Gracie's mom had been on the phone with a pediatrician who advised Phillips to take her to the ER.
Doctors ran tests including an an electrocardiogram (EKG), all which said checked out fine, before diagnosing her with hair-grooming syncope.
'Out there for others to see'
Phillips said she's posting about about Gracie's diagnosis because it's likely that others don't know about it.
"I am putting this out there for others to see," she wrote. "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!"
A doctor agrees. Evans said that if people experience symptoms of the hair-styling condition they should sit down or better yet, lie down. It often happens in the morning "and mothers and daughters in the bathroom doing hair" is a very common scenario," he said. Dehydration appears to be a culprit. If it happens once, it can happen again, he added. The condition is rarely treated with medication and most children are encouraged to sit while styling hair and have a glass of orange juice nearby. He said 98% of the patients in his study checked out fine with no other medical conditions.
Gracie was treated and released from the incident in early July and things have returned to normal.
"We are so thankful," Phillips said. She is perfectly fine now."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hair-grooming syncope sent child to ER. 'Look it up' woman warns