Hair Tourniqets

Ever heard of a hair tourniquet? No? Let us enlighten you!

A hair tourniquet is a rare condition in which a hair becomes wrapped around a child’s finger, toe, limb or genitalia reducing or completely stopping the circulation of blood. 

Because hair is so strong and can stretch significantly when wet, it can accidentally become wrapped around an area of the body, contracting and becoming tighter as it dries leading to a hair tourniquet. 

It is thought that hair tourniquets most commonly happen due to repetitive movement. Imagine a hair is trapped inside the socks or mittens of a child who is constantly moving their hands or feet around. You can see how it could become tangled up around an area of the body.

Hair tourniquets are most common in babies under 6 months of age (due to all of that post-partum hair loss, wild right) however they can also happen to older babies and children and have even been reported in adults.

What are the signs that my child has a hair tourniquet?

The biggest one is your child crying non stop or being inconsolable for an unknown reason.

If your little one is crying or distressed and you can not work out why, remove their clothing, nappy and socks and check their limbs, toes, fingers, penis, testicles or labia for signs of a hair tourniquet.

Because human hair is so fine you may not be able to see it wrapped around an affected area. Instead crying, pain or discomfort may simply lead you to unexplained swelling or discolouration of skin (red, blue or white) due to reduced or no blood flow. In this situation you should assume a hair tourniquet until proven otherwise and seek help immediately!

How is a hair tourniquet treated?

A hair tourniquet needs to be removed as quickly as possible, the longer tissues of the body go without blood the higher the chance of permanent injury or even amputation (which to stop you from freaking out is extremely rare).

To remove a hair tourniquet at home you can try using a depilatory cream like Nair to dissolve the hair. Only try this if the skin has not been cut by the tourniquet and if the tourniquet is to the genitals- it’s best to leave it to the professionals due to risk or burns or irritation.

If you are unable to remove a hair tourniquet at home you should take your child to the emergency department straight away and if you manage to remove it make sure to follow up with a GP straight away to make sure there is no damage to the area.

The hospital may also try depilatory cream, they may cut the hair to free the affected area or in more severe cases they may need to perform minor surgery to remove it.

Learn something new today? We sure hope so!

And if you want to learn a whole bunch of new and helpful first aid tips and tricks, why not sign up for a course with us today.

Scroll to Top