A hair or a thread twists and causes damage: beware of tourniquet syndrome in young children

A hair or a thread twists and causes damage: beware of tourniquet syndrome in young children

A simple hair, a textile fiber that falls into a baby’s sleeping bag, cradle or activity mat… trivial facts that can lead to serious situations. Indeed, they can accidentally wrap around the toe but also the finger of the baby. Even, more rarely, around the genitals and neck.

The tourniquet effect then shears the skin and cuts off the child’s blood circulation. If the problem is not caught in time, it can cause infection or even necrosis of the garroted area. This series of events has a name: the tourniquet or strangler hair syndrome.

“The classic case concerns the mother who bends over the cradle of her child. Due to the postpartum hormonal drop, young mothers lose a lot of hair. The latter can then nestle everywhere. This happens usually in the summer, when the baby has bare feet”sums up Hervé Haas, head of the pediatric department of the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco.

A study on this phenomenon

True, tourniquet syndrome is rare. But, when it happens, it must be taken very seriously. A team of emergency pediatricians from Toulouse studied the phenomenon for six years, and recorded an average number of 8 cases per year.

In their conclusions, we learn that the children affected by strangling hair have an average age of 4 months. The toes are mainly affected (95%) and the link is often a hair (95%).

What symptoms?

How to identify this syndrome? First of all, it is very painful for the child. In case of incessant crying, especially during a treatment, it is necessary to check if a part of the body is not discolored and swollen.

If parents locate a coiled hair or textile fiber, it should be removed immediately. If the extremity is too swollen, it is advisable to go to the emergency room.

Even if the parents managed to remove the bond, it is better to consult a doctor to make sure that there is no infection.

The best prevention: hygiene

For the Dr Hervé Haas, the best way to prevent this syndrome is to practice good hygiene. “Parents should pay particular attention to daily care. Bath time is the perfect time to inspect the baby’s body.”

Simple gestures can also avoid this phenomenon. First of all, moms with long hair can tie it up when taking care of the child.

Other precautions: avoid embroidered socks, which often contain a lot of threads, wash baby clothes inside out and be careful not to mix them with those of adults in the washing machine.

“You can’t imagine that a hair can do so much damage”

In May 2021, 3-month-old Arthur fell victim to Tourniquet Syndrome. “That day, my son was crying a lot. He was inconsolable. At bath time, I undressed him and took off his socks. There, I saw that one of his toes had doubled in size. volume. It was purplish red”testifies Olenka.

The young woman calls her husband and both try to remove the wire, in vain. The young couple rushes to the emergency room. Arthur will be operated on the next day. Today, the little boy simply kept a small scar. “Arthur has a slight loss of feeling around the area that was garrotted, but he hasn’t had any issues with walking.”

At the hospital, the doctors explain to Olenka that one of her hairs had slipped into a sock, probably in the washing machine, creating a tourniquet syndrome. “You can’t imagine that a hair can do so much damage.”

Today, the young mother is trying to raise awareness among parents, in particular thanks to social networks. “I didn’t know about this risk at all. At the maternity ward, I was given lots of documents, but absolutely nothing about this syndrome which can have dramatic consequences.”


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