Things That Matter

Mother Warns Parents About Hair Tourniquet Syndrome After Her 5-Month-Old Baby Almost Loses His Toe

Most parents know to look out for common signs of their babies getting sick, such as fever, coughing, or even lack of hunger, but knowing the symptoms of rarer conditions is just as important.

While few of us ever learn about hair tourniquet syndrome, it most often affects babies and toddlers — and learning about the symptoms may just be the difference between a child losing or keeping body parts such as toes, fingers, genitals, the tongue, or earlobe.

St. Louis mother Sara Ward shared a Facebook post explaining how she noticed her 5-month-old son Logan’s toe was becoming increasingly red with a line going across it. After waiting two days, the toe did not improve, so Logan was taken to the pediatrician — but they never expected what would happen next.

The child was rushed to urgent care and the emergency room after realizing he had hair tourniquet syndrome, which is when a strand of hair or even a thread wraps itself around a toe, finger, genitals, or more.

This limits blood circulation, which causes pain, and if left untreated, can even lead to loss of function or fully losing the body part. Hairs can even wrap around the neck, possibly causing asphyxiation. When it comes to hair tourniquet syndrome, it is crucial to look out for redness or swelling, plus excessive crying.

Ward described how twelve nurse practitioners, pediatricians and surgeons all looked at her son Logan’s toe, trying to find the hair with “tweezers, scalpels, magnifying goggles and special lights.” They even tried using the hair removal product Nair to remove it. Hair tourniquet syndrome can be especially tricky to resolve because if the hair manages to embed itself in the flesh, skin may begin to grow over it — making it near-impossible to see. 

While Logan was booked for surgery to “slice the toe on the side” to make sure the hair was cut through, they were able to avoid the operation “at the last minute.”

As Ward explained in her post, “many of you might be thinking, it’s just a hair, why is it so difficult to get?,” but sometimes these cases can become truly complicated. She wrote, “the hair strand can wrap so tightly around the limb and then it begins swelling and constricting the area,” and combined with skin growing over the hair and “a screaming, kicking baby,” this condition can be a nightmare for any parent.

So how can hair tourniquet syndrome occur in the first place? Logan’s medical team hypothesized that a hair in his pajamas simply got caught on his toe, and ended up winding itself around it over time. Any kind of “repeated movement of the body part in a restricted space” that has a hair in it can cause this syndrome, such as a hair or thread inside socks or footed onesies.

Ward said that “Logan’s case was extreme,” and that they were “very lucky” to save his toe and avoid surgery. She recommends looking out for any hairs wrapped around extremities, and removing them as soon as possible.

Plus, if you notice redness or swelling in your baby, it is crucial to rush them to a doctor as soon as possible.

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