September 25, 2012
BehindTheMedspeak: The incredible healing power of hot water
Last night (Monday) around 10 p.m. I looked at my left ring finger, where it had been punctured by a thorn during Sunday's nightmarish Pennypack Park Half-Marathon in Philadelphia.
I'd grabbed at anything I could reach as I slipped in the mud and rock on the treacherous up-and-down trail and come up with a handful of thornbush that ripped my finger to shreds, lacerating the medial surface and producing a spurt of blood.
I didn't notice till about an hour later that there was thorn deeply embedded in the distal aspect of the extensor surface, entirely subcutaneous without any place to gain purchase with my other hand's fingers and pull it out.
No matter, I had other things to deal with at the time, being miles away from the finish in the midst of the most frightening course I've ever been on, hoping to simply get to the finish line without falling and fracturing my skull or breaking an ankle.
Cut to the end of the race, when I was finally able to sit down and dig the thorn out with my trusty Swiss Army knife.
Once I removed the thorn the deep wound bled like stink but hey, you know the medical mantra: "Bleeding always stops."
And it did.
And that was it for that problem — until 10 p.m. last night, when I looked at the finger after I banged it on something and recoiled in pain.
I noticed the area around the thorn's entry point was bright red and swollen, a sure sign of incipient infection.
The wound had already closed on its own.
Time to invoke hot water soaking, a wonderful treatment for anything because there's only upside: it might not help but it won't hurt, something you can't say for many medical interventions.
I gave the finger a dunking in a cup of the hottest tap water I could stand for 10 minutes, repeating the treatment 15 minutes later.
I woke up this morning and it must have been better 'cause it didn't even occur to me to me to look at it until 15 minutes ago.
Lo and behold, the affected area (above, in a photo taken seven  minutes ago) is no longer swollen nor bright red and it no longer hurts.
Done and dusted.
The bill is in the mail.
Fair warning: The photos above are the last ones by my iPhone 4S that will ever appear here.
Future pictures will be taken with my iPhone 5, arriving tomorrow.
September 25, 2012 at 04:01 PM | Permalink
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I once had a rose thorn puncture a leather gardening glove. Instead of removing the thorn through the glove, I foolishly slipped the glove off. I lost the thorn. It felt as if its very tip had broken off inside my finger, but I could not tell for sure. After all, dried blood and rose thorns are the same dark brown.
A few weeks later, my dermatologist examined the finger tip under a very bright light. We both thought it was likely that the tip of the thorn was in the tip of my finger. Under the bright light, something could be seen in there. An incision would have produced blood that would have obscured the thorn tip, so he marked the spot, and used a 2 mm biopsy punch to remove a piece of finger tip. He put what was in the punch in a bottle of liquid, so it could be sent to the pathologist. In the bottle was a very tiny piece of finger, a bit of blood, and the very tip of a rose thorn.
Posted by: Charles E Flynn | Oct 2, 2012 8:20:41 PM
How did we survive childhood?
My mother's kit, probably your mother's too, contained nearly useless Mecurochrome for cuts and scrapes, Ichthammol salve for thorns and skin infections and a baking soda/water paste for bee stings.
Posted by: Kay | Sep 26, 2012 1:42:36 PM
PT: A bacterium is many, many orders of magnitude smaller than a pinpoint. And all it takes is a couple from the wrong side of the tracks to set up shop and before you know it they're cutting off your necrotic arm.
Posted by: bookofjoe | Sep 26, 2012 12:16:04 PM
I recently rapped the middle knuckle of my index finger against something slightly sharp. For the next day or two the finger hurt more and more and stiffened up. Infection, I thought.
A couple of days of Neosporin and back to normal. THE ODD THING: This was the smallest wound I have ever seen in my life! It didn't even bleed a drop (even on Plavix). A hole the size of the POINT of a pin.
How does that happen?
Posted by: PT | Sep 26, 2012 12:04:10 PM
glad to see your owie is ok joe - let the world know
Posted by: sherlock | Sep 26, 2012 12:17:23 AM
Nah. It was the healing touch of Gray Cat.
(I know what you mean, Kay - I have that fear too, especially recently, after a local woman here was all over the news when she lost a leg and both hands after a zip-lining injury. Now I'm paranoid about every little tiny scrape.)
Posted by: Flautist | Sep 25, 2012 4:34:04 PM
No Nu-Skin? No hydrogen peroxide? No alcohol?
I've always had a cavalier attitude toward injuries, but now I have respect (i.e. fear) of necrotizing fasciitis.
Posted by: Kay | Sep 25, 2012 4:10:29 PM
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