Health: How a bad hair day can end up in hospital

Customers having a shampoo in a hair salon should beware the "beauty parlour syndrome". A hair-wash may be soothing but there is a small risk it could end with a trip to the accident and emergency department.

Doctors in Bath describe the case of a 42-year-old woman who suffered a stroke after bending her head back over a washbasin. As she left the hairdresser, her left foot began to drag. By evening she could not use her left leg at all, and when she woke next morning she could not stand.

In hospital, examination showed the lining of one of the arteries in her neck had torn away and was blocking the flow of blood to her brain. This can happen without any cause in older people or those with arterial disease, but the woman was healthy and all other tests were normal.

The woman recovered six months after her stroke, with only a little weakness in her left arm and hand. Dr David Bateman and colleagues, of the Royal United Hospital, Bath, writing in the Lancet, say that the damage was probably done when her head was bent back over the hairdresser's basin.

They warn that the position, adopted to keep soap out of the customer's eyes and to avoid smearing her mascara, is not without risk. "Hairdressers should be instructed not to over- extend the neck and should use the cushion usually provided," they write.

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