After Teen’s Death From Eating Hair, Family Warns About Rapunzel Syndrome

Anxious Hair Pulling

A teenager in the U.K. has died of hairball infection in her stomach. Her family is now attempting to raise awareness about the perils of eating hair.

Sixteen-year-old Jasmine Beever of Skegness, near Manchester, suddenly collapsed last week while at college, and she was rushed in an ambulance to a hospital. She passed away after being initially resuscitated. An autopsy later identified a mass of hair as the cause of death. Her family and friends have organized fundraising events where they are warning against eating hair, commonly to referred to as Rapunzel Syndrome. Her brother, Jordan Shaw, told the Skegness Standard that her death was shocking.

“From a child, she was always sucking her hair – she did it when she was bored or nervous – and we were always telling her to stop. This has come as such a shock as so many children chew their hair. If we can stop another family going through what we are now maybe something good will come out of this.”

Eating hair for years had reportedly caused an infection in Beever’s stomach and led to ulceration of the thin membrane lining the organ. When the ulcer burst, it affected multiple organs.

Besides a fundraiser event in Skegness, Beever’s friend, Billie-Jo Rosee Ashwell, organized an online fundraiser to help raised funds for the family in grief.

“Anyone that knew Jasmine knew what a Wonderful, Caring girl she was. She had a real zest for Life. There was never a gloomy face around Jaz because she would go out of her way to make you smile. Even people she didn`t know. She would always offer a helping hand for anyone that was struggling or offer her shoulder and a hug to anyone that was having a bad day,” Ashwell said of her friend on fundraiser page.

Ashwell’s mother, who responded to comments on the fundraiser, indicated that until Beever’s death occurred, the possibility of death from eating hair was unknown to the family.

Rapunzel Syndrome, also known as Trichophagia in the scientific community, may be attributed to an underlying psychological condition called Trichotillomania. A paper published in the American Journal of Psychiatry describes the conditions as rare, with a peak onset age of around 12 years. Trichotillomania is also often associated with anxiety disorder, the study notes, and those afflicted also tend to exhibit behavior like nail-biting and knuckle-cracking when stressed.

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