This baby's toes were saved from amputation, but should you try this solution at home?

By Melissa Willets
August 19, 2016
Credit: Shutterstock

Mom Kristina Clarke is grateful for hair removal cream. But not for the reason you may think. According to Pop Sugar, the depilatory lotion is responsible for saving her 5-month-old baby's toes after a hair got wrapped so tightly around her tiny digits it was cutting off circulation.

Luckily, Clarke noticed that her daughter Bryleigh's toes were red and swollen during a diaper change. Upon closer inspection, she saw the culprit: a single hair. That's right; it's called hair tourniquet syndrome, and it happens in infants whose toes are so small that one strand of hair can actually stop blood flow and lead to amputation.

Naturally, Clarke attempted to remove the hair, but it was so tightly wrapped that she was unable to free Bryleigh's tiny toes. A scissors only resulted in drawing blood. Would you believe that at the hospital, doctors couldn't even remove the strand? Until, as Pop Sugar explains, a surgeon decided to use hair removal cream to dissolve the hair. It worked!

Based on her experience, Clarke offers her advice to other parents if they notice a hair wound tightly around their baby's toes: "Don't panic—but if you feel like your child needs to go to hospital there is nothing wrong with taking them there. And always keep a can of hair removal cream handy."

We are so relieved little Bryleigh is okay, but we decided to talk to a pediatrician to get his take on whether using hair removal cream is a good way to treat toe tourniquets.

Robert Hamilton, MD, pediatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, agrees that hair tourniquet syndrome (HTS) requires prompt treatment. He adds that a hair can become entwined on fingers or toes, and even on a baby boy's penis, a baby girl's labia or clitoris, or the uvula at the back of the throat.

"The greater the swelling, the more difficult it is to [see] the entwined hair or thread causing the constriction. With minimal swelling, it is possible to unwind or cut the entwining strand. With more swelling it is a common practice to take the child to surgery and do a small incision on the back of the affected toe or finger."

He adds, "The use of depilatory cream, as mentioned in [Bryleigh's case], is a legitimate method, but care must be taken to make sure that the offending, entwining strand is really a hair. If it is a thread and not a hair, precious time could be lost waiting for this method to work."

To prevent HTS from happening, Dr. Hamilton says mothers or other family members with long hair can keep it combed back, and out of baby's reach. "It is important to remember that postpartum mothers often have hair loss," he cautions. So keeping a clean home also decreases the number of hairs on couches and floors.

If baby becomes irritable all of a sudden, without an apparent cause, and if no other common symptoms of illness are noted, HTS may be to blame. A parent or caregiver should inspect baby for a tightly-wound hair on an appendage that may be cutting off circulation, and if one is found, treat it immediately.

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.

Comments (1)

December 2, 2018
My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website >>SleepBaby .org<< - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! Can’t imagine life without it! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out! >>SleepBaby .org<< - sorry, you can't post links here so you'll have to turn it into a normal link :) Best of luck to you and your family!