What is toe tourniquet – or hair tourniquet – and how can you prevent it?

The problem of hair tourniquet or toe tourniquet syndrome arises when stray hairs or string get caught in your baby's clothes - here's what you can do to help

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Pictures like this often hit the headlines – in a pretty scary way – as parents take to social media to warn others about the dangers of ‘toe-tourniquet’ syndrome or a ‘hair tourniquet’.

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The condition happens when a hair – or piece of thread – gets trapped near a baby’s finger, toe or penis, and becomes tightly wound around it.

How to prevent a toe tourniquet

Check your baby’s clothes and blankets for stray pieces of your hair – particularly if it’s long.

What to do if your baby gets a toe tourniquet 

If you’re baby is crying inconsolably and can’t be soothed by your usual methods, then it’s always worth checking their digits and genitals.

Carefully using tweezers and nail scissors can usually free the hair – but you may want to see your doctor if it’s too tight to their skin for you to get behind or if you have any concerns about it getting infected. 

One dad’s story

The picture we’ve used here is of 5-month-old baby Molly’s toe. And she’d suffered a toe tourniquet when a hair had somehow got into her sock and then wrapped itself around her toe. As Molly wriggled, it then wound tighter and tighter until it was causing her real pain.

Luckily her parents caught it in time, but if left, this sort of toe strangulation can lead to infection – and sometimes even surgery.

Her dad, Scott Walker, shared the story on Facebook to help warn other parents of the dangers:

“I was with the family over lunch and Molly was cranky and screaming – nothing out of the ordinary.

“As worked up as she was getting, she started to overheat, which prompted Jess to remove her socks and cool her down. That’s when we saw her toe. 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.”

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