Turns out hair ties can do more harm than disappearing when you need them most. They can also send you to the hospital with a potentially life-threatening infection—or so the Internet would like you to believe.
Last week, news about a Kentucky woman named Audree Kopp who was hospitalized for an infection she caught from her hair-tie went viral. Sounds crazy, right? Even Kopp admits it does.
"I didn’t believe it at first," Kopp told CBS Local. "I thought that it was a spider bite, or something else, not from wearing hair-ties."
Doctors explained to the local news station that a "glittery" hair-tie she wore very tightly on her wrist caused bacteria to creep under her skin, eventually causing a large abscess.
After a course of antibiotics didn't stop the lesion from growing, Kopp headed to the emergency room, where doctors had no choice but to drain the abscess to prevent the infection from spreading. (If it had spread to her bloodstream, she could have developed sepsis, which is life-threatening.)
The problem probably started because of how tight the hair-tie was, New York dermatologist and author of Skin Rules Debra Jaliman, MD, explained to Health. "If the hair tie is very tight then it can abrade your skin and any time you abrade the skin, bacteria can get inside."
Wearing the same, super-tight hair-tie for a long period of time also probably played a role.
Kopp posted on Facebook that the infection was caused by three different bacteria: "strep, staph, AND poly negative."
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Dr. Jaliman says that it's rare to get all three infections at once. The strep and gram-negative bacteria (what Kopp misidentified as poly-negative bacteria) are usually found in the environment, whereas staph is a common infection caused by staphylococcus bacteria, which normally lives on the skin or in the nose.
Though most of the time these infections are easily treatable with antibiotics, they can turn dangerous if they get out of hand and the bacteria enters your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs, or heart.
The good news is this is also uncommon, and getting one of these infections from a hair-tie is even more unlikely than that. “Many people wear hair ties around their wrist and it is very rare to get an infection. It is even rarer to get a life-threatening infection,” Dr. Jaliman says.
The bottom line is there's no reason to stop keeping them handy on your wrist, but Dr. Jaliman still suggests paying attention to your hair tie.
“Although the chances are slim, there’s no reason to risk it,” she says. “Make sure the bands aren’t too tight around your wrist. Don’t leave them there for long periods of time, and wash them if you can.”
And if you're still worried about wearing a hair tie on your wrist check out Hairbanglez, a trendy bracelet designed to hold your elastics, and keep bad nerves at bay. They're cute and hygienic!
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