Can mehndi lead to epileptic seizures? Things to keep in mind while applying mehndi

By, New Delhi
Feb 10, 2023 03:00 PM IST

In a recent case, a nine-year-old girl suffered epileptic seizures triggered by the smell of mehndi applied on her hand. Here's all you want to know about epileptic seizures.

Mehndi or henna has a special significance in Indian culture and on most special occasions, women adorn their hands with beautiful mehndi designs be it Karwa Chauth or Raksha Bandhan. While mehndi has its own appeal and goes wonderfully with traditional outfits, its smell could trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. Given its popularity and demand, the natural henna is mixed with chemicals called Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD) and sold in the market. Besides causing skin problems and a host of other issues, exposure to PPD-mixed henna could trigger serious illnesses such as chronic dermal exposure lethargy, anorexia and gastro-intestinal disturbances. (Also read: Epilepsy: Causes, risk factors, right time to see doctor, diagnosis, treatment)

Can mehndi lead to seizures? Things to keep in mind while applying henna (ANI Photo)
Can mehndi lead to seizures? Things to keep in mind while applying henna (ANI Photo)

Certain smells can trigger seizures especially in epilepsy patients. Strong smells like petrol, bleach or glue can lead to seizures in some people. In a recent case, a nine-year-old girl suffered epileptic seizures triggered by the smell of mehndi applied on her hand. The case study got published in the January 2023 edition of the Clinical Neurophysiology.

Epilepsy triggers

"Usually, there are things that may trigger seizures such as bright light, bright sound, strong smell such as mehndi, paints, liquor, drug by default, and lack of sleep. A seizure appears from the lobes of the brain. There is a smelling centre stationed in the brain as well, so a strong smell may precipitate this area and may lead to electric disturbance. The five senses reside in the brain may trigger epilepsy. Seizure develops on trigger, commonly in patients with epilepsy. Only if a person has suffered from a seizure earlier because of a particular smell (in this case mehndi) then such patients are recommended not to get exposed to the same smell," says Dr Najeeb Ur Rehman, Senior Consultant Neurology, Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad.

PPD side effects

In many cases, black henna accessible in the form of tubes and cones is mixed with Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD). PPD is known as a potent skin sensitizer and people who try it may get dermatitis on their hands and occasional spreading to the arms and upper chest.

"Acute exposure to high levels of para-Phenylenediamine may lead to severe dermatitis, eye irritation and tearing, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions, and coma in humans. Chronic exposure to PPD may cause chronic dermal exposure lethargy, anorexia, gastro-intestinal disturbances, liver and spleen enlargement, sub-acute atrophy of the liver, jaundice, chronic renal failure, progressive neurological symptoms and coma too," says Dr Rehman.

Long term effects of exposure to this chemical are lupus, asthma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and associated to breast, uterine and bladder cancer.

"PPD may also lead to precipitation contact leukoderma and vitiligo in genetically predisposed individuals. Besides local effects, there is the chance of systemic toxicity. Transcutaneous absorption of PPD is rapid and may cause systemic effects such as angioedema, gastro-intestinal disturbances, tremors, drowsiness, convulsions, dyspnoea, liver atrophy, acute renal failure, cardiac arrest and even death," adds Dr Rehman.

Here are things that must be kept in mind before applying Henna:

- Remember to read the packet before using any henna products or dyes so that you may come to know the exact contents.

- Check the product carefully to know if it’s natural henna. If you are not sure about henna, don’t go for it.

- Every time perform a patch test even if you’ve used the product earlier.

- Refrain from being tempted to keep the room hot to get more out of the colour. Overheating may make you feel dizzy, and may shoot up your blood pressure.

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