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How your hair can threaten your baby’s safety

September 29, 2016

You’ve seen several articles about baby-proofing your home and how to keep your baby safe in various situations, but there are some threats to your baby that can’t be completely removed. One of these threats is stray hair. It might be hard to believe, but your hair can threaten your baby’s safety.

The term “hair tourniquet syndrome,” also called “toe tourniquet syndrome,” describes the occurrence of a stray hair wrapping around a baby’s toe, finger, or even genitals tightly enough to cause pain or injury. The actual incidence of hair tourniquet syndrome was thought to be an uncommon occurrence, but it has become more publicized in recent years as parents have shared their experiences with the media to spread awareness.

So how exactly does a hair tourniquet happen?

It usually happens with human hair, although thread can also pose a threat, though less frequently. The loose hair usually finds its way into the baby’s sock or footie pajamas, or sticks to the baby as he/she moves along the floor. The single hair wraps itself around the baby’s appendage, and usually tightens with movement. Sometimes hair falls into the diaper area during changes and can wrap itself around the penis. Other cases have occurred with the scrotum, tongue, uvula, vaginal labium, ear lobe, umbilicus, and nipple, though the most common incidences occur with the toes, wrists, and penis.

How can I tell if my baby has a hair tourniquet?

The most prevalent symptom of a hair tourniquet is inconsolable crying. Many parents of infants with hair tourniquet syndrome took their child to the doctor to be evaluated after other attempts at pacification were unsuccessful, at which time the doctor does an exam and identifies the swollen appendage. Sometimes, however, the appendage is so swollen that the skin folds over the hair, and it becomes difficult to determine the cause of the swelling. Especially in fair-skinned children with light-haired parents, the hair causing the trauma can be difficult to even see to the naked eye, and a magnifying glass is sometimes necessary to identify the cause of the problem.

How is it treated?

Usually, the hair can be easily unwrapped and there will be no permanent damage. Sometimes if it is very tight, a dull object such as a bobby pin can be used to lift the hair in order to cut it and remove it. In very rare cases, the skin may need to be cut longitudinally in order to divide the hair. Fortunately, most babies will display their discomfort long before any permanent damage can occur, allowing parents time to intervene.

How can I prevent hair tourniquet?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done in terms of prevention. Especially because postpartum mothers often experience excessive hair loss, acute observation is the best form of prevention for hair tourniquet syndrome. Simply being aware of your child’s mood and doing a quick visual check during diaper changes or feedings is enough to rule out hair tourniquet syndrome as the cause of excessive fussiness. However, if you ever notice unusual swelling or infection, do not be afraid to ask your pediatrician about the possibility of a hair tourniquet and to trust your parental instinct when it comes to the well-being of your infant.

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Avatar for Angela Silva

Angela Silva

Angela graduated with her B.S. in Exercise and Wellness and is a NASM certified personal trainer who specializes in postpartum fitness and recovery. She enjoys writing, cracking jokes, and spending time with her family, preferably while fishing. She shares many of her life adventures on Instagram as @angelagrams

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