A hidden danger has gotten some attention recently, as one father took to Facebook to describe a frightening incident with his five-month-old daughter. Scott Walker shared the scare he experienced when his daughter, Molly, became extremely fussy during lunch one day. As the child became overheated due to the crying, her mother removed her sock, only to discover that the circulation was being cut off to one of the baby’s toes. Unbeknownst to Molly’s parents, a fine hair had become wrapped around the baby’s second toe, causing extreme pain, redness and swelling.

Literally called a hair tourniquet syndrome, this phenomenon occurs when a long hair becomes tightly wound around a baby’s body part. Long hairs can get stuck in socks, mittens or diapers, then becoming wrapped around the toe, finger or external genital. This creates a painful and potentially dangerous situation – in some cases, leading to amputation.

The number one symptom of hair tourniquet syndrome is a baby who is extremely fussy and cannot be soothed. Because the hair is so hard to detect, many times parents are not even aware there is a problem, until they notice the area swollen, discolored – sometimes purple or blue – or bleeding.

Removing the hair can be very difficult. A strand of hair is extremely fine, but, because it can be wound around the appendage multiple times, it forms a strong cord. Added to this is the fact that the area where circulation is partially blocked starts to swell, further embedding the hair into the skin.

In Molly’s case, her mother was able to use tweezers to remove the hair, but the image shared by her father 45 minutes later shows the area still swollen and red. The story, posted to warn other parents of this danger, has been shared over 32,000 times since it first appeared in January 2016.

A number of comments to Walker’s Facebook page include parents sharing their own stories of this happening to them. One mother posted a photo, highlighting her child’s severely discolored – almost black – toe.

A September 2016 Medscape article said that the hair tourniquet syndrome occurs most often in the first 19 months of a child’s life. Children up to the age of four months are particularly vulnerable, as this is when mothers tend to experience more hair loss due to hormonal shifts.

While tissue death, potentially leading to amputation, is the greatest concern for children suffering from hair tourniquet syndrome, Baylor, Scott & White warn parents to watch for infection, another dangerous complication.

Because blood supply is cut off to the area, there is great urgency in removing the hair.

The television program, The Doctors, addressed the issue of hair strangulation. Host Travis Stork, M.D., shared a story of a mom, whose five-month-old baby experienced a hair tourniquet. At the ER, the doctors used hair removal cream to release the hair tourniquet. Stork said that this was a trick he learned while working in the ER, almost suggesting that new parents add hair removal cream to their arsenal of baby aids, like diaper rash cream and baby wipes.

Stork went on to say that, as a physician, he was always taught that if a baby was brought in who was fussy, and there was no obvious other cause, he should look for signs of hair tourniquet syndrome.

“A lot of parents don’t know about this,” he said.


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