Hairbands rarely cause problems, but they carry a minor of abrasion when they chronically rub against the flesh. Not only may this create an opening for bacteria, but it may also limit blood flow and tamper with nerves. One case study acts as a stark reminder of the importance of periodically washing hair ties to keep them hygienic.
In 2015, Audrey Kopp noticed a bump appear on her wrist where she habitually wore a glittery hair tie.
Thinking it was a spider bite, she initially ignored the bump until it grew noticeably bigger.
After eventually visiting a doctor Audrey was prescribed a course of antibiotics, but her symptoms still persisted.
As a result, an incision had to be made on her wrist in order to drain the pus from her abscess.
“I rubbed a tiny scratch on my wrist, and the bacteria from the tie jumped in, causing a life-threatening bacterial infection,” she wrote on her Facebook page at the time.
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Her doctor suspected bacteria from the hair tie had transferred onto the skin and entered the skin through pores and hair follicles causing three types of infection.
Other experts theorised the sharp edges of the glittery particles on the accessory had scraped the skin, providing a gateway for bacteria.
Though the risk of infection from wearing hairbands is rare, doctors warn against carrying them around the wrist if they’re too tight.
Doctor Brian Fisher, Clinical Director at wellness app Evergreen Life, explained: “While wearing items such as hair ties on your wrist won’t present any issues for the majority of people, they can cause problems if they’re particularly tight.
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“If a tight hair tie is left on the wrist too long, the blood flow in your hand could possibly be cut off and lead to problems such as nerve damage.
“So, if you feel your hand get colder or experience a tingling sensation then it’s best to remove the object on your wrist straight away to keep the blood flowing.”
Though the complications of infections are well-documented, the warning signs are often ignored.
In the first stages of a skin infection, the skin generally becomes noticeably red and warm.
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If a painful lump appears at the site of infection (an abscess) this may signal a collection of pus beneath the skin.
Some abscess forms inside the body, causing non-specific symptoms like high temperature, feeling unwell, and pain in the affected area.
The pathogens responsible for these types of infections are the viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites that reside on the surface of the skin.
The disease-causing agents produce toxins, which are powerful chemicals that damage cells and promote illness, and sometimes sepsis.
“Sepsis occurs when your body reacts too intensely to infection, not only fighting the bacteria but also your own tissues,” explained Dr Fisher.
“Any bacterial infection has a chance to become septic, however, there are a few groups that are at a much higher risk of developing it.
“This includes those with diabetes, people who have recently had surgery or serious illness, as well as those over 75, among others.”
Though a hair tie was responsible for Audrey’s infection, nose rings, piercing and finger rings can also cause problems due to the contact they have with the skin.
“Particularly tight items can also cause abrasions on the skin, opening the gateway for any bacteria that may be present on the item; especially hair ties,” noted Dr Fisher.