Hair Grooming Syncope and Your Child: What All Parents Need to Know

I had never heard of hair grooming syncope, but when I learned that my niece made an unexpected trip to the hospital because of it, I started researching.

pin about hair grooming syncope

After reading a Facebook post from my sister-in-law, Summer, I felt compelled to share her story with all parents. The other day, Summer had the oddest (and one of the most frightening things) happen while she was fixing her daughter’s hair. Read below to learn more about hair grooming syncope and how it could impact your child.

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Summer’s Story

I took this directly from Summer’s post on Facebook post-incident:

a girl with braids

“We spent our morning in the ER today after my daughter had what looked kind of like a minor seizure.

I was braiding her hair when she started complaining of a stomach ache, her vision went wonky and she just tipped straight over forward – unresponsive, stiff, eyes open and pupils dilated.

After 20 seconds or so, she came back around but was still unable to hear for just a short time. Then, she was okay. Terrified, but okay.

The doctor at Children’s Mercy said it’s a pretty textbook case of hair-grooming syncope. It is essentially the same thing as passing out from locking your knees, but when the vagus nerve is triggered in the neck (from brushing/tugging hair) the faint looks almost like a seizure instead of a dead faint.

Honestly, I had no idea brushing hair could induce fainting, let alone what looks like seizures. It was one of the most terrifying things I have ever experienced.

The moral of the story: if you are fixing your kid’s hair and they start complaining about feeling poorly or just weird – stop and have them sit down right away.”

What the Heck Is Hair-Grooming Syncope?

First, let me take a moment to let you know that when you research hair-grooming syncope, you’ll get a lot of abstracts of research on the topic. Oddly, Wikipedia is really the best way to discover a summary of the results without having to pour through abstracts. So, I’m using Wikipedia as my authority on this topic.

According to Wikipedia:

“Hair-grooming syncope (also known as hair-combing syncope) is a form of syncope (a fainting disorder) associated with combing and brushing one’s hair. It is most typically seen in children aged five to sixteen.

Hair-grooming syncope typically manifests as presyncopal symptoms during hair combing, brushing, braiding, trimming, curling, or blow drying. These symptoms are followed by loss of consciousness and sometimes convulsions. Migraines, abdominal pain, ‘feeling funny’ or blurred vision may also occur before or after seizures. Possible causes of the condition include pain or nerve stimulation on the scalp (similar to parade-ground syncope), or compression of blood vessels or nerves resulting from neck flexion or extension.”

This Affects Boys, Too!

The piece on Wikipedia continues:

“A 2009 study identified 111 pediatric cases of hair-grooming syncope in the United States, almost three-quarters of which were in female patients; that study found that the condition is most associated with hair cutting in males and brushing in females.”

So, if you find that your daughter faints while you’re brushing her hair or your son faints while you’re cutting his hair, don’t worry. Everything’s normal. It’s just hair grooming syncope.

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Has this happened to you? Share your story in the comments below.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.