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Sugar Bowl Mix: Hair brushing causes seizures

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hair brushing causes seizures

I'm excited to be participating in Mama Kat's writing prompt for the first time. This post is inspired by: "A moment you felt truly relieved."

Did you know that brushing your child's hair can cause a seizure?  I didn't know this. But now I do.

When Caroline was in Kindergarten she had a quick shower every morning and Katie had one right afterwards. On this particular morning the house was an especially chilly 49 degrees when we got up and the shower was warm and inviting. Caroline asked for a few extra minutes to play and I promised her sister the same.

After her shower when Caroline was dressed I brushed her hair while she stood in between my legs, her back to me. As I pulled the brush through her shoulder length blonde hair, my mind wandered to the rest of the lunch that had to be packed, to the shoes that had to be retrieved from upstairs, to the field trip release I hadn't yet filled out.

So when Caroline said "I want to go back to bed," I offered a quick Mom response.
"I know what you mean, but we've got to finish getting ready and get to school."

Then she slumped down. Very gently. Very quietly. I thought she was being silly, pretending to fall asleep.

"Don't be silly," I said. "Come on, stand up."

She didn't stand up. She stayed slumped against my leg. She had just passed out. I gently lowered her to the floor, not quite sure how to react.

As I stood there, listening to Katie playing in the shower, and deciding what to do, Caroline began to jerk and shake. Violent motions that seized her whole body, that sent her arms and legs flailing. That seemed to move the entire floor. When her eyes opened and rolled back in her head, showing the whites, I froze.

My five-year-old was having a grand-mal seizure.

Before the seizure ended I started to, very methodically, plan out what needed to happen: I had to call 911; I had to get Katie out of the shower and dressed; I had to call Tim who was at his early morning yoga class; I had to get dressed myself; I had to call one of Katie's preschool friends to get them to take her to school.

Once the seizure stopped Caroline was so pale her skin was almost transluscent. I grabbed her up in my arms. I hadn't lifted her up like that in a long time; she was heavy. Her head slumped against my shoulder.

"You're okay, baby," I said. I never called her baby. 

I shouted to Katie to get out of the shower.

"Caroline is sick!" I said. I didn't want to scare her but apparently something in my voice did because she turned off the shower, got out, dried herself and was completely dressed, all in about one minute flat and she was only three years old and had never done all that by herself.

I raced back to the other end of the house, to the phone in the office, where I placed Caroline, still unconscious, on the floor.

I dialed 911 and explained my five-year-old had just had a seizure. I was put through to a paramedic who asked if Caroline was breathing. It hadn't even occurred to me check. I reached down and felt under her nose and saw her chest rising.
"Yes," I said. "She's breathing."

As I hung up Katie appeared, fully clothed, her hair dripping wet.
"Can you get Caroline a blanket?" I asked. She charged off and returned with a blanket from the family room sofa.

Caroline's eyes opened but she was not responsive. Her forehead was cool under my hand.

I called Tim and left him a voicemail. His yoga class wouldn't be over until 7:30 and he probably wouldn't check his voicemails until he was leaving the yoga studio at 8 am. I tried not to cry but when I said the ambulance was on the way I choked up.

The paramedics arrived. They were very calm. They explained this happened a lot. She probably just spiked a fever. Except she wasn't sick and didn't have a fever

When I called a friend who lived down the street to see if she could come get Katie I finally burst into tears.

The paramedics hoisted Caroline, now on the gurny, into the ambulance. I saw my friend, her car parked a little way down the street, running up the hill towards us. Some neighbors came out and asked if everything was okay. My friend picked up Katie, now crying, and carried her off. I shouted after her that Katie hadn't eaten breakfast.

By the time Tim met us at the ER the color had returned to Caroline's face and she was less groggy but when the doctor told us he wanted to do a CT scan I couldn't stop my tears. Tim and I watched through a glass partition as Caroline was pushed into the CT scan. She was so brave. She never complained or cried.

She was released shortly after the CT scan came back normal. We went home and spent a day playing games and watching TV. 

I checked on Caroline several times before going to bed. I had a hard time sleeping that night and many nights that followed. 

Caroline's pediatrician told me: "Every kid is allowed one free seizure." But she also recommended Caroline see a pediatric neurologist. 

Meanwhile, a friend of mine told her father, a pediatrician, about the incident. Amazingly, he asked if I was brushing Caroline's hair when the seizure happened. Evidently seizures caused by hair brushing are well-documented. He urged me not to follow up with neurologist.

So I did what anyone would do. I googled "hair brushing causes seizures." I got a lot of results. Apparently Caroline's morning was the perfect set-up. The extra time in the warm shower had her feeling a little light headed, brushing her hair caused her to experience vasovagal restriction and pass out and the lack of oxygen to her brain caused the seizure.

I cancelled the appointment with the pediatric neurologist.

I felt total and complete relief; her seizure was  a genuine "free seizure."

It's three years later now but I still brush her hair very carefully and she doesn't take showers in the morning. 

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At January 16, 2011 at 6:55 PM , Blogger Penny said...

Wow what a scary experience!! Will keep this mind...although I've got 2 boys so maybe I won't brush their hair so much.
I'm visiting from the Nestwork, all the way from New Zealand! Great blog, will be back for more

At January 16, 2011 at 11:03 PM , Blogger Jinnia Low said...

Anne, you did well staying calm and methodically planning out what to do. How frightening. I'm glad it was a "free seizure". Glad you know the reason now. Thanks for sharing this information! I never would have known hair brushing could cause seizures.

At January 17, 2011 at 1:09 AM , Blogger Rachel Cotterill said...

That sounds terrifying - but I'm so impressed by your peace of mind.

At January 17, 2011 at 4:01 AM , Blogger Sommer J said...

How frightening! Glad she hasn't had one since. Will share this post with friends. Thanks for sharing!

At January 17, 2011 at 5:38 AM , Blogger NovemberSunflower said...

Oh MY GOD. That's scary. I'm going to be even more careful. My daughter still takes baths.....Now I'm beyond scared. But glad I know!
I'm visiting from Nestwork today. Thanks for the information.

At January 24, 2011 at 6:23 PM , Blogger Pink Nothings said...

I had never heard of that and glad I have now. Crazy. Glad you little girl is doing alright now. :)


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