Hair Tourniquet Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Pictures, Treatment

Hair Tourniquet Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Pictures, Treatment

Ever wondered why your baby weeps and screams even after you’ve tried everything to soothe her/him? It could be a hidden pain or injury that may have gone unnoticed, something like a hair tourniquet syndrome. How can one know? Read further to find out.

What is hair tourniquet syndrome? Also commonly known as toe tourniquet or thread tourniquet syndrome, this is a condition wherein a strand of thread or hair tightly wraps around the finger, toe, genitals, neck or other body parts. It causes swelling and severe pain, limiting blood flow to the affected area, and damaging the skin and tissues.

If left unattended, hair tourniquet can lead to severe damage, requiring medical intervention. Babies are more prone to such issues owing to the tiny appendages that allow foreign materials to easily wrap around them. Therefore, parents need to take enough care to keep their little ones away from things like hair, clothing with loose threads, strings and the same.

hair tourniquet

Image source: Wikipedia

Hair Tourniquet Symptoms

Hair tourniquet effects can range from mild to severe depending on the amount of time the baby is exposed to such conditions before getting treated. Looking for such symptoms may not be something that you would think of when your little one cries. However, this must be one of the things in your list to watch out for when the crying doesn’t seem to cease.

hair tourniquet

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

General symptoms of a hair tourniquet may include:

  • Incessant crying throughout the day or night
  • Persistent irritability and crying with no apparent causes
  • Meek or severe swelling in any part of the body
  • Red or pale colouration of the toe, finger, tongue, ear, genitals or the umbilical stump
  • A visible groove, bump or indentation on the appendage

Hair Tourniquet Treatment

If tourniquets are not treated on time, it can lead to emergency conditions such as ischemia, progressive oedema, tissue necrosis and even auto-amputation of the affected area. Immediate medical care helps prevent the hair from cutting into the skin tissues, save the affected area from damage and prevent fresh skin from embedding the hair. It is easier to treat the condition when caught at the earliest. Let’s take a look at the steps for hair tourniquet treatment:

  1. Turn on your room lights, go to a brighter area or flash some light on your baby’s affected part. Look for swelling or additional damage in other parts of the body as well.
  2. Look for hair, thread or string.
  3. Check carefully whether you can lift and cut the hair using tweezers, without causing skin damage. More often than not, hair or thread cannot be seen under the swollen region.
  4. If the above step looks difficult or risky, try applying a depilatory cream on the hair directly. Leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes (Note that depilatory cream is not advisable if the skin has opened, the cut is too deep or there is an allergic reaction).
  5. Wash the cream off carefully with warm water.
  6. Dry the area and apply some mild disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide.
  7. Even after these steps if your baby continues to cry in pain or the redness/swelling does not subside, you MUST consult your doctor immediately. This will help prevent severe complications.
  8. On removal of the hair, the affected area will heal gradually, and blood flow will get back to normal. You may use mild pain relief creams or herbal oils to help soothe and heal your baby’s injured area.

Hair Tourniquet Prevention

Taking adequate preventive measures is the best way to ensure that your baby does not get into such complications.

Hair Tourniquet Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Pictures, Treatment

Image source: iStock

  • Hair loss is a common postpartum problem. So, ensure regular brushing of hair to avoid loose hair from falling everywhere.
  • Tie your hair because you are constantly taking care of the baby and you do not want any hair trouble.
  • Keep your home clean and get rid of hair, dirt, threads, etc. regularly.
  • Don’t forget to check your little one’s fingers, toes and other appendages regularly for any signs of hair tourniquet.
  • Avoid using clothing/linens/mittens with loose threads, which pose higher risks of causing hair tourniquet.
  • Make sure to wash your baby’s clothes, socks and mittens separately and inside out as well. Also, dust them thoroughly before use.

Although hair tourniquet is rare, you must frequently watch out for any such symptoms so as to avoid severe injuries.


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