Parents

Hair tourniquet: Dad warns others after twisted hair nearly took off baby's toe

Every new parent has been there: your baby is crying and despite trying everything to comfort your infant, you can't figure out what's wrong.

This is exactly what happened to Scott and Jessica Walker of Wichita, Kansas when their 19-week-old daughter, Molly, started screaming at lunch. As the baby started to get more upset, she began to overheat. The warmth prompted Jessica to remove the baby's socks to cool her down. That's where they found the source of the screaming: a hair tourniquet around her toe.

A hair what? Like many parents, Scott had never heard of the syndrome, which is when a strand of hair that inexplicably wraps around a toe so tight that it can cut through the skin and potentially cut off blood circulation.

"The hair tourniquet syndrome wasn't anything I ever heard about," Scott told TODAY.com. "When we found it was pretty stressful because any time your kid is hurt it's stressful; you feel helpless. I'm lucky enough to have a wife who is an awesome nurse who was able to remove the hair in minutes."

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So, after the ordeal was over, Scott decided to share the story on Facebook in hopes of enlightening friends and family who were also new parents. His post has since been shared more than 16,000 times and liked more than 27,000 times.

"It was a pretty scary situation," he said. "It ended very well, but it was scary enough where I wouldn't want anyone else to deal with something like that, so I wrote about it."

Parenting and youth development expert Dr. Debi Gilboa told TODAY.com that a hair tourniquet is one of the many risks young children face, but not many parents know about it.

"This is something all pediatric interns are taught to look for when baby or a preverbal toddler is inconsolable," she said.

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A hair tourniquet happens because a lot of parents have long hair and babies tend to grab it or a piece of it can end up in places like their diaper or sock without you evening noticing.

"If you feel like your child is behaving in a way that's unusual, pay attention to it. You're usually right," Gilboa said. "A hair tourniquet is a great thing to check for and it's not hard to spot. There's not really any way to prevent it, but they're not that hard to remove. Use something like a bobby pin, so it's thin and not sharp, slide it between the hair and the skin and it pops right off. If you feel uncomfortable call your doctor."

At the end of the day, Scott said he's happy his personal situation has been able to help so many.

"There's a lot of people who haven't heard about it and we've had a couple of messages of people who saw the post and it happened to them since then and took action to help their kid out before it got worse," he said. "How much more rewarding does it get?"

Editor's note: This story was first published on Feb. 3, 2016.

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