Hair Tourniquets

Your questions

My name is Catherine, and I just went through a very stressful experience with my 5-month-old baby. I had never heard of a hair tourniquet, and thought it would be essential to inform other parents about it. My baby almost had to have its toe amputated! Please write an article to help prevent complications associated with this occurrence.

Thanks from a relived mother,




Thank you for your suggestion. Yes, in reality, we don’t really talk about hair tourniquets, and unfortunately, sometimes babies may pay the price.

What is a hair tourniquet?

A hair tourniquet is when a strand of hair, thread or tissue becomes tied around a baby’s finger or toe. It gradually tightens and acts like a garrote. 

Babies, without really realising it, often pull out strands of hair with their fists, and the hair becomes wound around their finger, strangling it.

Hairs can also be found on their clothing and in the feet of their pyjamas or socks, sliding between and then tying around their toes.

Hair tourniquets are accidental in nature.

What are the effects of a hair tourniquet?

As the hair or thread ties around the baby’s finger or toe, blood and lymphatic circulation are compromised, and the accumulation of blood leads to severe local swelling, pressure on tissues and pain.

This local swelling makes the hair difficult to see, as it is stuck in the skin folds. The cut-off blood circulation leads to tissue necrosis (death of tissues). The skin starts red, then turns to blue as the strangulation increases around the toe or finger.

If this occurs, you need to act quickly to avoid amputation.

How do you know if it’s a hair tourniquet?

Hair tourniquets are hard to identify because the signs are progressive as the strangulation increases around the toe or finger. It can take 2-3 days for swelling to start, and then a few more days before the skin changes colour.

If your baby seems to increasingly cry for no reason, fully undress them, and check their fingers and toes when changing their diaper or bathing them. You have to be vigilant, as hair can cut, is resistant and difficult to remove when very tight.

How can you prevent hair tourniquets?

New mothers frequently lose hair after childbirth. This is mainly associated with a drop in hormones after giving birth. If you have long hair, pay attention to your baby’s fingers and toes when caring for them.

If you see a hair or string around their toes or fingers and it’s still accessible, cut it with a pair of tweezers. But if it is too tight, you have to act quickly to avoid a possible amputation. Go see a health professional immediately. They have the appropriate tools to eliminate the hair tourniquet.


To learn more, read these articles:

  • Parents to the Rescue: First Aid for Babies
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)


Watch this video:

  • First Aid for Babies


Talk soon,


The Baby Expert

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Hair Tourniquets

Par Marie Fortier Temps de lecture: 2 min