This week in weird news, a Kentucky woman is reportedly recovering from emergency surgery following a serious infection—from a hair tie around her wrist. Her surgeon said bacteria from the glittery band likely entered her body through a small cut in her skin.
But before you spiral into a panic and vow never to wear a hair tie around your wrist again, take heart.
“There’s always a risk of infection when you have an open wound—maybe she hurt her wrist and there was a hair band next to it that had been colonized by bacteria,” says Arielle Nagler, a member of the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. But the risk is very remote: “I don’t think it requires that people completely change their behavior.”
With that being said, Nagler says you should remove a hair tie from your wrist if you’re taking care of a sick person or doing dirty work, like changing a diaper—or wash it afterward, either with soap and water or with your regular laundry. Better yet, throw it out if you’re concerned it’s contaminated. “The nice thing about most hair things is that they’re pretty disposable,” Nagler says.
Incidents like this one serve as a good reminder to practice proper hand hygiene. “If you’re going to take away one thing from this, hand washing is probably the most important thing to preventing infections such as this,” she says.
And when in doubt, let common sense rule: “If you do notice that you have a red, swollen, painful bump in an area where you had a hair tie, obviously you should seek medical attention for that. But I don’t think this means people should stop wearing them,” Nagler says. “There are lots of ways you can get an infection, this is just one fluke.”