Hair Today, Staph Tomorrow

A Kentucky woman says her glittery hair tie caused a wrist infection that required surgery.

Published Nov 30, 2015


[green-label]NEWS:[/green-label] A woman claims her glittery hair tie gave her an infection so nasty that it required surgery.

Louisville woman Audree Kopp said she was in the middle of moving into a new place in late 2015 when she noticed what looked like an insect bite on her arm. When it didn't go away, she went to the doctor, who gave her antibiotics. Those medications did not seem to help, and so she had to have the lump — which was, by then, very painful and larger than a quarter — cut open and drained.

According to Kopp, doctors told her that she had contracted infections from three different types of bacteria (staphylococcus, streptococcus, and gram-negative) and that they were most likely caused by a glitter-covered hair tie that she wore around her wrist.

"Thank God they caught it in time, or I could have had sepsis," Kopp told CBS. "Once it gets into your bloodstream, people have been known to go into a coma, your body shuts down."

Kopp's doctor, Dr. Amit Gupta, said that the bacteria might have gotten into her skin through her pores and hair follicles, or through a tiny scratch.

"It's one of those freaky things," Gupta told us. 

"She had a little scratch, and you know, people have a habit of putting these things in the mouth, and mouth bacteria can cause an infection.  I think that’s how it came about... it’s not a common thing, and I don’t think people should be unduly worried about putting head bands on their wrists."

The resulting infection ended up as an abscess that required surgery.

Kopp announced that she will not be wearing hair ties around her wrist any more, and that others should watch out if they wear them — especially ties that are tight, difficult to clean, or both.

Dr. Gupta said that while the likelihood of Kopp's situation is low, people can minimize their risk of getting an infection.

"If you have a scratch or something, if you have extenuating circumstances, if you’re diabetic, if you're on immunosuppressant drugs or something like that, all these things add up and can cause an infection."

Disinfectant and a bandage, he said, is an excellent preventive measure.

Photo Courtesy: Flickr user Megan Sparks

Brooke Binkowski is a former editor for Snopes.

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