Pesky Prickly Plants

Avoiding and Treating Plant Injuries

Avoid Pokes, Pricks, and the Pain that Comes with Them.

If you live in the desert, you are bound to encounter one of these plants eventually, however there are ways to prevent injuries when you do. First and foremost, just avoid being around them in the first place.

Of course, if you spend a lot of time outdoors, these plants are nearly unavoidable. Wearing long sleeves and pants can help tremendously. By doing this, any needles and sharp leaves have a more difficult time reaching the skin, So light brushes and bumps are less likely to result in injury, or may reduce the severity of it. Covering up while outside has the added benefit of reducing exposure to the sun’s harsh UV rays, which is a much larger hazard than cactus needles.

Secondly, wearing close-toed shoes is just as important. Kicking a cactus or stepping on thorns can be very painful, and can result in swelling and inflammation the will result in difficulty walking.

Treating an Injury From One Of These Sadistic Succulents.

If you manage to have a run-in with a desert plant, the first thing to do is wash the affected area thoroughly with mild soap and water. Avoid using peroxide or alcohol, as they can further irritate the skin.

Secondly, use tweezers to remove any barbs, needles, or spines. If there are any fine hairs, such as those on Pricklypears, tweezers may not work. One option is to gently apply clear packing tape, then peel it off. Another method is to cover the affected area with craft glue, apply gauze over the top, and allow it to dry. After it has dried, peel it off. This method has shown to remove most of the fine needles and spines.

After cleaning the wound and removing debris, sooth the skin, and prevent swelling. Using a cold compress can reduce irritation. Additionally, taking an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, can reduce swelling, and irritation. Finally, cover the wound with a petroleum based ointment, such a Vaseline or Aquaphor. Additionally, be sure to uncover the area, and allow it to breath a few times a day, to prevent irritation, and promote healing.

Lastly, monitor the site for signs of infection. If redness, swelling, pain, pus, or smells develop, it may be infected. If these signs are present, it is very important to see a doctor immediately. Moreover, severe incidents, such as falling into a cactus or walking into thorns, may warrant a visit to urgent care, or a dermatologist, in order to adequately treat the affected areas.

Being ambushed by a poky plant is inevitable for those of us that live in the desert. Luckily, the injuries are usually easily manageable. The best treatment is prevention, however in the event of injury, use this as guide to treating your wound. Ultimately, the best thing to do, is see your dermatologist or family practitioner in order to receive the most effective treatment.

* Results and your patient experience may vary

author avatar
Dr. Timothy Jochen Medical Director, Contour Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Center
Dr. Jochen specializes in Mohs Surgery for skin cancer removal, facial rejuvenation including cosmetic laser technology, Botox® and facial fillers, soft tissue augmentation, leg and facial vein treatment, tumescent liposuction and hair restoration/transplants.

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