Toddler's hair causes rare strangulation in her sleep

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·2-min read

A “distressed” toddler woke up in the night as a hair became lodged in her throat and strangled her uvula while she was asleep. 

The three-year-old, from Newcastle in England, woke up with her parents finding a long hair sticking out of her mouth, according to her case in the British Medical Journal Case Reports.

Her mum, who spoke anonymously, told researchers the hair caused “severe distress” when touched.

“Unable to adequately examine her mouth, I assumed the hair was caught around a tooth,” she said.

“Fluids and a banana soothed her distress and allowed me to check her mouth where I could no longer see any sign of a hair.”

Hair seen wrapped around the uvula of a three-year-old girl.
The hair seen wrapped around the girl's uvula before it was removed. Source: British Medical Journal Case Reports

She added it was uncharacteristic of her daughter to wake up crying.

“Over the following two days, she was well but mentioned discomfort when eating,” she said.

“I regularly tried to examine her throat but was not confident that the hair was wrapped around her uvula, partly as it was difficult to examine and her hair is blonde but also due to my assumption that such an event was highly improbable.

“However, when I started to witness a discolouration in the tip of her uvula, I sought medical assistance.”

The uvula is the fleshy mass which hangs at the back of a person’s throat.

Researchers wrote the family visited doctors and the emergency department three days after the girl woke up crying.

The mum said doctors initially dismissed the theory of hair tourniquet syndrome.

Hair tourniquet syndrome is when hair becomes wrapped around an appendage causing injury or even loss of it.

Luckily, a doctor did confirm the diagnosis of hair tourniquet syndrome and surgery was performed.

The uvula of a three-year-old girl is pictured after part of it was removed due to a trapped hair.
The hair and part of the uvula removed. Source: British Medical Journal Case Reports

“On examination in theatre, the hair was found to be strangulating the distal uvula and trailing into the oesophagus,” researchers wrote.

“It was not possible to untangle the hair, and as the tip was non-viable, the decision was taken to remove the uvula tip with bipolar cautery to reduce discomfort.

“The child was well postoperatively and discharged home the same day.”

The little girl’s mum said her daughter didn’t need a change of diet or pain killers a day after surgery.

“I assume her naturally long curly hair attributed to this incident,” she said.

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