(Reuters Health) -
The hair loss that many women have after giving birth
can be more than a nuisance--occasionally, those shed hairs can get
wrapped around baby's toes, creating a "tourniquet" that cuts off
The condition is
not very common, and the exact incidence is not known," Dr. R. Scott
Strahlman of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore told Reuters
Health, "but most pediatricians and emergency room physicians will
see (it) at least once in their careers.
referred to as toe tourniquet syndrome, occurs when a loose hair or
thread becomes so tightly wrapped around a baby's toes that pain,
swelling and discoloration occur.
Fingers can also
get wrapped up, but the toes are most often the victim. And when
babies are affected, it's usually at an age when their mothers'
post-delivery hair loss is at its peak--around four months after the
Strahlman said that
in his 18 years as a pediatrician, he's cared for three babies with
toe tourniquet syndrome--including his youngest son.
He reports on his son's case in the March issue of the
According to Strahlman, the 3-month-old baby had become
excessively "fussy," which was at first attributed to
run-of-the-mill gas. Only during the baby's bath two days later was
it discovered that three of his toes were "entrapped" by a hair. One
of the toes was swollen, purple and tender to the touch.
At the time, his mother was going through "massive postpartum
hair loss," according to Strahlman.
He treated his son by carefully removing the hair and
treating the wounds with a topical antibiotic.
In other cases, though, Strahlman points out, the problem has
been known to lead to permanent tissue damage, and even loss of the
appendage, if not treated promptly.
That makes preventing the problem key, according to the
"I think the
hallmark of prevention is the regular inspection of a baby's toes,
which is something that most parents don't think of, and most
pediatricians don't advise," Strahlman said.
"I would make it a
point to inspect at least twice a day," he added.
In the report,
Strahlman notes that "mothers with long hair need to be especially
checking babies' toes, he said, it's "just as important" to turn
babies' footed clothing inside-out to check for stray hairs.