Keep It Safe

How to prevent hair tourniquets


There’s nothing cuter than your baby’s tiny corn-row toes, but they—as well as other parts of your baby’s body—can quickly become endangered by what’s known as a hair tourniquet. “This happens when something very thin and pliable, such as a hair or thread, gets wound around a digit or other appendage, even a penis,” says Madelyn Goble, R.N., an ER/trauma nurse at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, Calif. Left unnoticed, a hair can get wound so tightly that blood flow is compromised.

To prevent hair tourniquets, examine your baby’s toes, fingers and penis at every bath. “Make sure they’re all a normal color,” Goble advises. “Also look for any indentation that’s more pronounced than in other areas.” If you do find a wrapped hair that isn’t too tight, go ahead and remove it. If it’s very tight, don’t try to cut it off; call your pediatrician instead. “There are certain ways you have to release a hair tourniquet in order not to nick a nerve,” Goble adds. “Plus, many times a hair is embedded so deeply that local anesthesia is necessary to remove it.” If you find a hair tourniquet on the penis, or if a finger or toe is discolored, head right to your pediatrician’s office or the ER. “That’s a medical emergency,” Goble says.