But as I was washing his little feet, I immediately noticed that something wasn't right. As a matter of fact, it was very, very wrong. There was one human hair wrapped very tightly around his toe, and it had actually cut into him quite deeply and was cutting off his circulation. Initially, it was purple and incredibly swollen. I immediately located the end of the hair and gently unwound it while trying my best not to have a major panic attack. As I freed his toe, he screamed loudly. The color changed from purple to an angry looking pink right away as the blood flow was restored to the toe. I then quickly got him out of the tub, dried him off and clothed him, and then I started sobbing. Then I called the hospital. They said that if he is showing signs of circulation when I applied and released pressure on the toe and he didn't seem to be in pain, we should simply keep an eye on it and watch for any changes in color. If the pinkness turned purple again or even blue, we should bring him in right away.
Who knew that ONE human hair could be so dangerous?! I sure didn't! Xander went to bed in his footie pajamas, toe intact, and the next thing I knew, he was injured. We're pretty certain that there was a stray hair that had gotten into his sleeper while doing the laundry. He never fussed or expressed any sort of discomfort whatsoever until I removed the hair. So my son slept all night long as his toe was being wrapped and cut deeply by one single strand of hair. We had no idea that anything was even wrong before it was too late.
While this is something you don't often hear about, it is relatively common. It is called Toe Tourniquet Syndrome. Hair, although it may seem innocent, can behave like a razor blade on tiny toes, fingers, and even penises. As it wraps around appendages, it can cut off circulation, cut into the skin and tissue, and babies have even had to have the affected areas amputated. How scary is that?! And while many babies will cry and become inconsolable, others, like my Xander, may not express any discomfort at all. The only time Xander cried was when I removed the offending hair from his toe. After that, he resumed his normal activities, laughing, playing, and walking comfortably on his poor little foot.
As the swelling went down a bit, we were able to get a better look at the cut. We thought we had gotten all of the hair, but since the cut was so deep, we couldn't really be sure, even with the aid of a very bright, handheld florescent light and a magnifying glass. I called the hospital again and expressed my worries and the nurse, a different one than I had spoken to initially, told us to bring him in right away to be evaluated.
The doctor checked out his poor little toe, and was able to confirm that we had in fact removed the hair completely. He also looked at the deep cut on the underside of Xander's toe and said it had appeared to have already begun the healing process. They opted not to give him stitches for this reason and told us to allow nature to take its course and it should heal completely on its own. He also said that Xander was a very lucky boy, and if this had gone undetected for even a couple more hours or if we hadn't been able to remove the hair in its entirety, he would have lost part of his toe.
Xander is doing just fine. He doesn't seem to be at all bothered by his wound, and is walking and playing just like nothing happened, despite the angry looking cut on his toe. In the meantime, I am keeping socks on him at all times to protect his foot and I am applying Neosporin to the cut to help prevent infection. My son got very, very lucky, but many babies don't. Appendages are lost to Toe Tourniquet Syndrome.
So if you have babies or very young children, PLEASE take extra precautions to make sure this doesn't happen to your family. All it takes is one stray hair to cause serious injury. Here are some tips on how you can prevent Toe Tourniquet Syndrome:
- Regularly check baby's toes, fingers, and diaper area for any loose hairs or threads that may have been picked up. Especially if they are crying or inconsolable. But remember- Not all babies will cry. Xander didn't, so we had no warning signs.
- Wash baby's clothes separately from the rest of the laundry. This may help, but in our case, it didn't. We wash the baby clothing separately, but still had this problem.
-Turn all sleepers inside out before washing and check for any loose strands of hair. Same goes for socks. A piece of hair can settle very easily into these garments and can then wrap around little toes.
-Check gloves and mittens for stray hairs or threads before putting them on baby. Fingers can get wrapped, too!
- If you have long hair like I do, tie it back while playing with baby. Mamas tend to shed and all it takes is one little hair!
-If you notice that your child does have a hair wrapped around an appendage, it may be able to be safely removed with a depilitory cream like Nair. However, DO NOT ATTEMPT this removal method if the skin is broken. When in doubt, consult your pediatrician or emergency room staff.
For more info about Toe Tourniquet Syndrome, click HERE.