A midwife has shared a warning to parents – especially those with long hair – to routinely check little ones’ fingers, toes and other protruding body parts for hair tourniquets.
Marley Hall, known on social media as Midwife Marley, took to Instagram to share a photo of a two-month-old’s blackened toe, which occurred after a piece of hair became tangled around it and cut off the blood supply.
The case in particular was from a child in China back in 2017 – it’s not clear whether the infant lost their toe or not, however at the time doctors said necrosis (the death of body tissue) had set in and amputation was a possibility.
“It’s believed the strand of hair was trapped around his toe for more than 10 hours before his father spotted it,” said Hall in a video on the topic.
The midwife explained hair tourniquets can get trapped around toes, fingers, earlobes and penises – and urged parents to always check their babies from top to toe when changing them.
This is especially important as postpartum hair loss – which usually peaks about four months after giving birth – can result in more hair being shed, and therefore increase the risk of tourniquets.
In cases where babies are wearing mittens or toe-covering pyjamas, the midwife urged parents to regularly check their child’s extremities every time these items are removed.
While hair tourniquets are not massively common, it’s crucial parents stay vigilant for them. In 2016, Katie Ellison, from Cambridgeshire, shared how her baby son almost lost a toe after a hair became wrapped around it.
The mum spotted the hair when she was changing her son for bed and saw his toe was blue and bleeding.
“We tried to get it out ourselves with tweezers but it was so swollen by this point that we just couldn’t see or get to the hair unwrapped around the worst toe,” she said at the time.
In the end, doctors had to cut into Wren’s skin and use tweezers to remove the tourniquet.
“A lot of women experience postpartum hair loss (myself included – it gets everywhere, which is a bit gross) and apparently these hairs can get in the washing machine and then find their way into sleepsuits,” Ellison warned.
“Then your baby wriggles around and manages to get it round their toes. In our case he wasn’t even upset or in pain originally as I think his toes had gone numb.”
Replying to Hall’s post, other parents shared their stories of discovering hair tourniquets on their children – and the worry that ensued.
“This was one of my biggest fears,” said one mum. “Since baby was born in the fall, we always had her bundled up in the winter. So she was rarely without socks or mitts. I would check often when she cried and sometimes I would check just because.
“Even though I was exhausted and taking her feet out of the socks and onesie was a lot of work, I’m glad I did because one of those times I found hair tangled in her little toes. Luckily I caught it in time before it was too tight.”
Another added: “I had this a couple of nights ago around my baby’s finger! So glad I noticed [it] when I did, had to cut it off with baby scissors.”
What to do if you spot a hair tourniquet
According to WebMD, signs of a hair tourniquet include redness, discolouration or swelling of the extremities. A child might also seem more upset than usual as the problem can cause them pain.
If you spot a hair wrapped around one of your child’s toes, fingers or other body parts, it’s crucial you remove it as soon as possible.
The first thing to do, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, is to try and find the end of the hair, so you can then gently unwind it. If you can’t find the loose end, you’ll need to carefully try and cut the hair with a small knife or scissors.
If this doesn’t work because the hair is deeply embedded in the skin, or the body part is too swollen, you’ll need to get urgent medical help.