Hair Tourniquet Syndrome

What is Hair Tourniquet Syndrome

Hair tourniquet syndrome is when a strand of hair, a string, or a similar object becomes tightly wrapped around a baby’s body part.

A hair tourniquet most often wraps around a finger or toe, but it can wrap around any part of the body. The hair tourniquet can cause pain and cut off normal blood flow. In severe cases, this condition can lead to infection or tissue death.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by a hair, a string, or a similar object becoming wrapped around a baby’s body part. Stray hairs or loose threads in the baby’s clothing are common tourniquets.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in babies who are younger than 4 months of age. Hormonal changes in the mother may cause her to lose more hair than usual during this time period.

What are the signs or symptoms?

The main symptom of this condition is redness and swelling in the affected area. Your baby may cry more often than usual.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed during a physical exam.

How is this treated?

A hair tourniquet must be removed immediately by a health care provider. The way in which the hair tourniquet is removed depends on the location and severity of the condition. The removal may be done by a health care provider using:

  • An ointment to dissolve the hair tourniquet.
  • A scissors, forceps, probe, or other tool to unwrap or cut the tourniquet.
  • A surgical knife (scalpel) to make incisions in the skin to access the tourniquet. This is only used in severe cases.

The health care provider may prescribe an antibiotic medicine to prevent infection. He or she may also refer your child to a specialist to check for any loss of function in the affected body part.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Give your child over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by the health care provider.
  • If your child was prescribed an antibiotic, give it to your child as told by the health care provider. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotic even if he or she seems to feel better.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s health care provider.

How is this prevented?

  • Regularly check your child’s fingers, toes, and other body parts for:
    • Hair tourniquets.
    • Areas of pain, redness, or swelling.
  • Change your child’s clothing regularly.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child continues to be irritable even after treatment.
  • Your child’s pain and swelling get worse or do not get better with medicine.
  • Your child has a fever.

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