What Are the Treatments for Thorns?

Thorns on plants or thorn-like seeds can cause nasty puncture wounds for gardeners. Punctures often don't bleed much and may close up quickly, which is one reason they can be dangerous. The risk of infection is high. Deep thorn wounds in the foot, or even hands if there is contact with soil, greatly increase the risk of tetanus. Fortunately, most thorn punctures are easily treated with basic first-aid measures.

Red berries of buckthorn in Quebec, Canada
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Thorns can sometimes cause serious puncture wounds.

Clean the Wound Area

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap -– scrubbing for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" -- to avoid introducing more bacteria. Most thorn punctures are tiny, if painful, and may not bleed. But if there is bleeding, apply light but steady pressure with a bandage or sterile gauze until it stops. Rinse the puncture under a stream of clean water for at least five minutes. If you can see or feel part of the thorn still in the puncture wound, clean the tips of tweezers in rubbing alcohol and use the tweezers to try to remove it. Thoroughly clean the wound with soap, water and a clean washcloth, which greatly reduces the risk of tetanus and other infections.

Use a Topical Antibiotic

Apply a small amount of over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment to the clean wound, both to discourage infection from any remaining bacteria and to keep the skin moist so the wound closes more quickly. Some people get mild rashes due to common ointment ingredients, so always stop using first-aid creams or ointments if you get a rash.

Apply a Bandage

Leaving puncture and other wounds open to the air generally speeds up healing, but bandages help protect against additional bacteria -- always an issue for gardeners. Keep the thorn puncture wound covered with a bandage at least until you're sure the wound has closed. Change the bandage at least daily and anytime it gets dirty or wet, as wet and dirty bandages can transmit bacteria directly to the wound.

Get Medical Help

Monitor the wound's healing. If the puncture isn't healing, feels painful, starts draining or becomes red, swollen or warm, seek medical attention for another look. Also see a doctor if the puncture wound is deep, in your foot or particularly dirty or contaminated. For deep puncture wounds with possible dirt exposure, be sure to get a tetanus shot if it's been more than five years since you've had one.