Father warns life-threatening toe wound risks against babies

A Kansas father who managed to save her infant daughter after a scare has shared his story on Facebook to warn other new parents about this life-threatening condition.

Scott Walker said his daughter Molly was getting worked up one afternoon. Suddenly, she began to overheat, prompting his wife to remove her socks so she could cool down.

That was when they saw her right toe, which had a hair tourniquet around it. A hair tourniquet is a strand of hair that wraps tightly around a toe and could potentially cut through the skin and cause circulation problems.

Fortunately, Molly’s mother is familiar with first aid and was able to remove the hair with tweezers and magnifying glasses within a few minutes. Molly’s toe was red and slightly swollen, but she’s very much safe.


Had a small scare this afternoon with Ms. Molly. What happened was new to me, but apparently not totally uncommon, so I…

Posted by Scott Walker on Thursday, January 21, 2016


Walker said it could have been worse if it went untreated or if the hair wasn’t accessible. He advised parents to check the toes if the baby is inconsolable.


What is Hair tourniquet?

Hair tourniquet is a medical condition where in a hair or other thread becomes tied around a toe or finger tightly, so as to put the digit at risk of damage. Occasionally this is known as Toe tourniquet.

The problem usually arises in babies and small children when hairs and thread are lost loosely inside socks  They can become spontaneously tied round a toe and will tend to tighten with wriggling. Natural hair is much more likely to undergo this phenomenon than spun thread.

Incidents similar to this can also occur during sleep, usually under Duvets or sheets which have loose threads which can constrict the toes.


As this is a condition primarily of young children, symptoms are rarely reported. The child will become suddenly uncomfortable and miserable. As the digit is often inside a sock, the cause may not be clear.

The affected toe can no longer receive an adequate blood supply via the arteries, nor can blood be drained via the veins. The toe will therefore swell and turn blue, indicating ischemia.

The ligature will not stretch in response to the toe swelling and will therefore cut into the skin in more severe cases, like a cheese-wire.


The ligature must be cut or dissolved as quickly as possible. Often it is possible to lift a portion of it to enable cutting, but in a severe case the ligature must be cut through the skin. This is, of course, injurious to the child, but does prevent loss of the digit. It must take place on the side of the toe, where there are no nerves or tendons.

Other treatment not requiring minor surgery includes use of a chemical depilatory, such as the over-the-counter product Nair, to dissolve or weaken the hair. This option is not indicated if the hair tourniquet has cut into the skin. Use of depilatory products such as Nair is not an effective treatment on nylon or other fibers that are not human hair.

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