Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Hidden Dangers to Your Baby's Toes: Toe Tourniquet Syndrome

As parents, we are warned about dangers to our infants, such as choking hazards and SIDS risks, but there is another hidden danger that most parents have never even heard of called toe tourniquet syndrome. Toe tourniquet syndrome occurs when a hair or string becomes entangled around a baby's toe, cutting off circulation. While strings and hairs are equally as dangerous, hairs are often worse because they can wrap around a child's toe so tightly it can become invisible as the toe swells, causing the skin to fold over the hair. While this may seem like a rare occurrence, toe tourniquets occur more often than one might think and commonly occur in children under 15 months of age. If the loss of circulation is not corrected promptly, amputation may be needed.

The treatment for toe tourniquet syndrome is simple, removing the hair or string; however, that may be easier said than done. If the hair or string is not wrapped too tightly if can simply be cut off. In other cases, the hair can be dissolved in a solution, such as Nair. In severe cases, the hair or string will need to be surgically removed or dug out of the toe.

Toes are not the only place this can happen. Hairs and strings can wrap around baby's fingers and penises as well. If the hair or string is removed quickly, circulation is restored and no further complications occur, but if the hair or string has cut off circulation for a prolonged period of time amputation may be needed.

Preventing Toe Tourniquet Syndrome
There are preventative steps you can take to reduce the risk for toe tourniquet syndrome from occurring. Before dressing your baby, check the toes very well, especially after taking a bath or swimming. Flip socks and any clothing that have the feet enclosed inside out and remove any loose strings or hair. Check the insides of slippers, gloves, and mittens for any loose hairs or strings as well.

Symptoms of Toe Tourniquet Syndrome
Toe tourniquet syndrome causes an inflammation to the area and the skin will change colors. The skin can turn white, red, purple, pink, and even black. Sometimes, the hair or sting will be light in color or be wrapped too tightly to be seen by the naked eye. If you suspect your child may have toe tourniquet syndrome, it is essential to take them for medical treatment immediately. A doctor can exam the area with a magnifying glass and remove whatever is cutting off the circulation. It can take some time for the area to return to it's normal color and for the swelling to subside.

Has your child had toe tourniquet syndrome?


  1. This happened to my 7th child when he was 8 months old! I couldn't believe I missed the hair! He had the habit of "combing" his feet through my hair while I was in front of him while he was on the changing table. I think it happened after a bath, when his little feet were "sticky". It was there for 2-3 days before I found it.He had general restlessness at night and fussiness during the day, so I checked him from head to toe (literally) looking for something wrong. I took him in right away. They were able to get it off in the office, he had a topical and a systemic antibiotic, and went on to develop an allergy to augmentin (penecillin allergy runs in the family, anyway). What a fiasco. I felt so bad for him.

    1. wow scary!! I had no idea about it until a family member's baby had it happen. It's crazy how something so simple can cause such a nightmare! So glad everything turned out ok for your son.