March 6, 2018
Hair Tourniquet

When Elizabeth was getting her little brother dressed this morning she noticed that his toe didn’t look right. « Mom! Michael has something scary stuck on his toe! »


I took a look and sure enough he had hair tightly wound around his toe and it was super constricted looking. I’ve been worried about this happening ever since Elizabeth was a baby. I do have very long hair, which I tend to wear loose (as it otherwise often gives me a headache). Margaret once told me a story about a friend’s baby that ended up needing an operation on his private parts after getting tangled in hair. So I’ve always been careful.


Anyway, I was able to untangle part of it but the toe was still very constricted looking and I could still see some hair. Getting more was impossible with all the kicking. So I got Brendan to try cutting it with scissors while I nursed and held the leg down. He cut part of it out, but it was still constricted and we didn’t know if we had actually gotten all the hair so reluctantly I bundled him up and headed to CHEO.


I was relieved that it was not busy at all. No lineup at triage, no one waiting in any of the rooms. The nurse looked at his toe and immediately figured out there was good blood circulation (by pressing the end if it goes white and then refills with blood that’s good). I promptly burst into tears. Not the first time.


The first line of attack was to slather the toe in hair dissolver (Nair) and let it sit for fifteen minutes. This apparently turns the hair into a kind of jelly which can be wiped away.


Not too long after a resident took us to the procedure room (which was a first!) He looked at the toe but couldn’t find any hair. He too found the kicking made things difficult. He consulted with another doctor and despite magnifying glass and light they didn’t see anything. 


Apparently after a hair tourniquet, it is common for the digit to remain constricted in appearance for a while. So Brendan’s efforts may have done the trick at home. But for good measure they decided to reapply the Nair. Then we waited for a while under « observation ». I nursed Michael and he filled many diapers and I discovered I neglected to bring any wipes. After a while the toe was checked again and they sent us home, with instructions to come back the following morning for a follow up or sooner if the swelling got worse or the toe became discoloured. 

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