Dad warns of hair tourniquet danger after baby almost loses toe
Molly and her big sister; and her affected toe.
A shocked father has shared his family’s experience in a bid to warn other parents about the dangers of hair becoming entangled around a baby’s toe.
Scott Walker and his wife Jessica, a nurse, could not work out why their 19-week-old daughter Molly was screaming and inconsolable recently. The baby girl became more worked up and began to overheat, prompting her parents to remove her socks to cool her down.
“That’s when we saw her toe,” Scott wrote in a Facebook post alongside a picture of his daughter’s inflamed red 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.”
Scott, from Kansas in the US, said the hair had unfortunately become so tight it had cut through his daughter’s skin.
“But if could have been worse had it gone much longer untreated, or if the hair wasn’t accessible,” he wrote.
“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.”
Scott decided to share Molly’s story in the hope of warning friends and family who were also new parents. However his post has reached more people than he could have imagined, being shared more than 28,000 times and liked more than 38,000 times in the two weeks since it was posted.
“The hair tourniquet syndrome wasn’t anything I ever heard about,” Scott told TODAY.com. “When we found it was pretty stressful because any time your kid is hurt it’s stressful; you feel helpless. I’m lucky enough to have a wife who is an awesome nurse who was able to remove the hair in minutes.”
“It was a pretty scary situation. It ended very well, but it was scary enough where I wouldn’t want anyone else to deal with something like that, so I wrote about it.”
In 2012 Canberra Hospital senior plastic surgery registrar Muhammad Ali Hussain shed new light on hair tourniquet syndrome in a paper published in Modern Plastic Surgery journal.
Dr Hussain said the syndrome usually involved a stray hair from a blonde-haired woman falling onto carpet and wrapping itself around the toe of a fair-skinned baby or toddler.
“I’ve treated about three or four of them myself, but a lot of people are not aware of it, even some doctors,” he said.
“They get entangled and the mother doesn’t notice what has happened until the time they start crying and they don’t know exactly what’s happening, why they’re crying. By the time they present [at hospital] it’s already a couple of days and it’s begun cutting through the toe.
“In a fair-coloured child and with blonde-coloured hair you can’t identify there is a hair. Even under a microscope it’s difficult.”
Dr Hussain said the injury was rare, but happened more often in summer, when children were more likely to be barefoot.