Cactus Spine Injury

Cactus Spine InjuryWe were getting ready to climb at El Rito this weekend, when I noticed an irritating cactus spine injury on my ankle was painful enough to make me limp. The injury was already two weeks old, red, and inflamed. After some research and soliciting some advice, I decided to stay off of it for a while, keep it elevated, soak it regularly, and keep a close watch out for any signs of blood poisoning. The photo is actually another week later, after a weekend out. It’s definitely slowly getting better, but my research indicates that it could be a few months before all the minute barbs fester out. Fun!

After quite a bit of surfing on the subject, this is my plan for the next time I get stuck:

  1. Pull out spines with tweezers. Pull them like a tick, gripping as close to the skin as possible. It’s easy to leave microscopic bits embedded in the skin even so.
  2. There may be spines too small to see or pull. Coat the the area with Elmer’s glue, let it dry, and rip it off. This can remove many smaller spines.
  3. Wash the site, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover.

Helpful info I got from the tubes:

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6 thoughts on “Cactus Spine Injury

  1. rich hit cholla with his knee riding his dirtbike. he was doing like 50mph when he hit it. he said he was pulling out spines for a year. BIG spines.

    what was the circumstance whereby you found yourself whacking your ankle into thing?

  2. I think was hiking in Bandelier National Monument when I got it. It was two days later when I realized it was a cactus injury. Ann, looked at it and instinctively pulled out a spine with her fingers.

    The trails to main attractions are good in Bandelier, but I found many of the minor trails are almost entirely overgrown. I got a big spine in my toe also, but it pulled out easily.

  3. That photo does look pretty nasty! Note: we drew the black ring around the red area in sharpie marker according my mom’s instructions (she’s an r.n.) in order to monitor “getting bigger” or “getting smaller” on the inflammation. When we were on our CDT hike a few years ago, second day out in southern NM, a Yucca tip broke off in my thigh. It just stayed in there–I could feel a hard knot–and now I can’t feel it any more. Weird. My lesson from Dylan’s injury? I’m going to add Elmer’s glue to my first aid kit, possibly also ammonia since we’ve heard excellent stories about poultice of ammonia drawing out poisons from spiders (brown recluse) and cactus spines.

  4. Second comment: Do you know why cactus HAVE spines? Well I just read about that this morning, coincidentally! Evolutionarily, cactus have done extraordinary things to capture and hold water. Obviously. As a result, critters learned that they are fabulous water reservoirs, and take advantage of them. Hence the evolution of the spines–to keep the thirsty beings away from their precious oasis. Cool!

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