Crazy! How Hair Tourniquet Syndrome Could Cost Your Baby a Toe

These parents, whose baby almost lost a toe, want to warn others about the dangers of hair tourniquet syndrome by sharing their scary photo.
Scott Walker/Facebook

I remember the first time I heard about hair tourniquet syndrome and newborns. And here was my exact reaction: Huh?

If you're thinking the same thing, listen up: It's actually a serious condition that can result from just one loose strand of hair from mom's or a caretaker's head.

Consider the recent experience of Kansas parents Scott and Jessica Walker, who couldn't soothe their 19-week-old daughter Molly one afternoon. As the infant continued to scream, she began overheating, which prompted her mom to remove her socks. That's when Jessica saw something wrapped tightly around Molly's little toe, cutting deeply into her skin.

Scott took to Facebook to explain to other parents what happened next, writing in part:

"This is called a hair tourniquet, which is literally a strand of hair that, while inside a sock, unexplainably wraps around a toe so tight that it can cut through the skin and potentially cut off blood circulation. Luckily for Molly, she has a mother with medical emergency superpowers who was able to remove the hair with tweezers and a magnifying glass within a few minutes. This picture was taken about 45 minutes after the hair was removed. Unfortunately, the hair managed to cut all the way through Molly's skin, completely around her toe, but it could have been worse had it gone much longer untreated, or if the hair wasn't accessible. The doctor told me, for future reference, to always check the toes if the baby is inconsolable. Just an FYI to any parents or care takers out there."

Of course, not all of us are trained medical professionals like Jessica, who is a nurse. Here's what Dr. Debi Gilboa told Today.com: "If you feel like your child is behaving in a way that's unusual, pay attention to it. You're usually right." While there's no way to prevent this from happening, she suggests using a bobby pin (since it's thin and not sharp) to loosen the hair. Slide the pin between the strand and the skin to pop it off. If you feel uncomfortable, she adds, go ahead and call your doctor.

After having three babies, I've yet to experience this frightening emergency myself. But I didn't even know to check for it until recently. That's why it's so helpful that the Walkers shared their story. Here's hoping Molly has recovered from her injury, and that Scott and Jessica have recovered from their scare!

Had you ever heard of this syndrome, or have you experienced it?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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