The bacteria from one woman's elastic caused a life-threatening skin infection. Experts dish on just how likely it is to happen to you
It's a painful truth for most women: No matter how many hair ties we start with, somehow we're always left with just one lone survivor to get us through months of workouts, face washes, and lazy days when we forgo shampooing in favor of a topknot. (Uh, BTW, that's one of The Worst Hairstyles for Hair Health.) And we all know the anxiety that comes when someone asks to borrow a hair tie—just look at the Internet memes! But we may have something far more serious to worry about when it comes to our precious elastics: a nasty wrist infection.
Yep, one woman's life-threatening infection is being blamed on her hair tie.
According to CBS Local, Audree Kopp noticed a growing bump on the back of her wrist and assumed it was a spider bite. She went to her doctor and was immediately put on a round of antibiotics. However, after the bump kept getting larger, Kopp took herself to the emergency room where she underwent surgery to remove the abscess. Her doctor, Amit Gupta, M.D., of Louisville, Kentucky's Norton Healthcare, told CBS the infection was caused by bacteria from her hair tie getting under her skin through the pores and hair follicles. If ignored, she could have suffered from sepsis, a dangerous complication of infection that can cause organ failure and even death. If you've got the stomach for it, we've got video of the infection below.
(Be right back while we try to un-see that!)
Kopp says she won't be wearing hair ties on her wrist anymore (Gupta advises against it). But we had to know, how likely is this to happen to us, really?!
"It's possible but very rare," says dermatologist Alex Khadavi, M.D., co-founder of HAND-MD. Phew. While Khadavi claims he has never seen this before and isn't aware of any other incidents like Kopp's, he still recommends washing or replacing hair ties every few months to eliminate bacteria which can be carried to the skin. He also advises keeping hair bands as sanitary as possible since "many times they end up at the bottom of handbags or stuffed in a makeup drawer which can spread germs and bacteria," he says. Um, guilty!
While celeb dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D., admits a hair tie infection is possible—mainly due to the rough glittery surface of Kopp's hair tie, which could have potentially caused microabrasions on the skin—as far as she's concerned, it's not something we need to be especially worried about. "Conceivably, the hair tie could have traumatized the skin, allowing the entrance of bacteria such as MRSA or E. coli, which can be found everywhere from shopping carts to gyms to escalators," she says. "But I have never seen anyone get an infection from a hair tie and we all know that women walk around constantly wearing them around the wrist!"
More than anything, this should be a reminder to maintain good hygiene and wash our hands after coming in contact with surfaces that may contain bacteria or viruses, Shamban says.
If you're still freaked out, here's another thing you can try: Switch over to a more hygienic hair band option like the invisibobble. Made from polyurethane (artificial resin), it doesn't absorb dirt or bacteria and can easily be cleaned, so you won't have to add 'hair tie infection' to your list of things to worry about while trying to fall asleep at night. Now if we could just stop losing the darn things!