Spooky health effects of Halloween fright!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

scared girl
I… I see dead people…

Don’t you just love scaring the life out of people? Their eyes get all big and a throaty scream fills the air before you either get punched or the person busts out laughing in relief. We all remember some of the wildest scares our friends and family have pulled off as pranks, but did you know your body might not find it so amusing?

In fact, during a scare, you’ll experience physical reactions like sweaty palms and a strong adrenaline rush. For the most part, these are harmless side effects and vanish within minutes, but according to experts, a bad scare can last up to a lifetime.

For example, a person can become so afraid that they actually lose their sight! Dr. Martin Samuels, chair of the department of neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains that fright “can cause any part of your nervous system to fail.” This occurs because some adrenaline-like chemicals leak into the bloodstream and affect organs inside of our bodies, such as our eyeballs.

If you thought going blind was the worst of it, think again. Apparently, if a certain amount of adrenaline is released, it can actually cause the heart to stop pumping! Dr. Holly Anderson, director of education and outreach at the Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, remembers one woman’s case all too well. She had just received bad news about her husband’s health condition, and as she stepped into the hallway outside, she fainted! “She was so emotionally overwhelmed about her husband’s condition it literally stopped her heart,” said Anderson. What’s interesting, is that her heart still had a steady blood supply.

I hope she didn’t have white hair when she woke up, because according to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, it’s totally possible. After a very stressful event, people suffering from a condition known as “telogen effluvium” can have their hair turn white basically overnight. Individuals with this condition lose hair follicles (the part of our bodies that produce hair) really quickly. As they fall out, gray hairs that were hidden become more visible, and it seems like their hair changed colors overnight!

Wow, I’m glad I don’t scare too easy, since getting “scared to death” never seemed more possible than now!

Featured image courtesy of tomek.pl on Flickr. Image of frightened girl courtesy of Victor Bezrukov on Wikimedia.