Cholla in the Finger!!! Any advice.

Original Post
Brent Silvester · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 135

Let me paint the picture. Halloween night, riding back home on my single speed road bike in costume and run off the road by a car causing my front wheel to hit the curb. This sent me over the bars, and into a patch of cholla (I think silver cholla, but could have been a younger jumping cholla). Thousands of cholla joints end up covering my entire body (head, face, neck, back, butt, the jewels, legs, knees, feet, and hands). I ended up in the ER room, with two people yanking those god forsaken plant parts off me.

Well it's been almost a week since the run-in, and some of the cholla spines have broken off and are still in my skin (mainly my fingers and bottom of my foot). The affected areas are starting to swell a little, and are really sore. This makes climbing more difficult than it needs to be. Does anyone have and advice (other than soaking in salt water) or tips on removing and dealing with these spines?

Thanks in advance.

AJS · · Boulder, CO · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 25

I hate to chuckle over someone else's misfortune, but you gotta admit that's a pretty funny story...just out of curiosity what was your Halloween costume?

And to the matter at hand (har har):
I had a few tiny cactus thorns in my hand this summer on a backpacking trip and I ended up just taping over them with athletic tape. I think while sweating over the course of the next day or so, my skin was supple enough that the adhesive of the tape stuck to the ends of the thorns. When I took the tape off it had a few thorns stuck to it. Rinse, repeat...I might add that if your finger is swollen already, maybe a bit of antibiotic ointment under the tape would be called for too?

SAL · · broomdigiddy · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 790

I heard recently that Cholla spines actually deploy smaller thorns once in your skin. activated by blood or somthing. You may want to have a doctor check that out again. I guess cholla thorns typically kill animals becuase they are so hard to get out. The animal gets it in their mouth then wont eat and then dies. Then the cholla sprouts out of the carcus and grows into a new cholla. Crazy. I could be wrong based on types of chollas.

Either way. Might wanna have that checked out. Sounds like they did not get them all out. Your body may naturally start to push them out but that could take a while. OUCH!>

good luck

kirra · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 530

Brent sorry to hear this. Perhaps it may not be a bad idea to visit a doctor or an outpatient clinic for some antibiotics...

Cholla cactus "Jumping cactus" thorns have backwards facing barbs on them, and are sleaved. When you pull them out, they often leave behind a sleave in you that will cause infection. There is also a highly irritating oil on the thorns

Brent Silvester · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 135
AJS wrote:I hate to chuckle over someone else's misfortune, but you gotta admit that's a pretty funny story...just out of curiosity what was your Halloween costume?
I was an inappropriate yoga instructor (youtube inappropriate yoga guy) for Halloween. So I was wearing some skin tight pants, sandals, and a wife beater. Absolutely no protection offered by the costume. When I got to the ER room, I was so covered in cholla joints that they just cut my cloths off of me. Nothing like spending a night on a hospital bed naked, with a male and female nurse picking cholla out of my privates.

Another interesting fact. My hands were so covered in cholla that I could not get into my backpack to get my phone. So I had to yell for help until someone called the cops. When the fire fighters responded, they tried (to no success) to call my girlfriend who had her phone off. Since I was so covered with cholla, the first responders decided to let me be until I got to the hospital. So, covered in cholla, unable to move, with no one to help and no one to call left me the only option of taking an Ambulance ride to the ER.

Funny. Absolutly. Although not right now seeing as my fingers are preventing me from doing the things I love.

Thanks for the advice, any more would be greatly appreciated.
Roach · · Tucson · Joined May 2006 · Points: 25


Hard times guy...I actually seen the pictures of you floating around in an email just yesterday. Tucson Fire using a pick comb to help you had on flops...if so, wow, you were covered from head to toe...all other answers aside, you will most likely have to let the little dudes work their way least after I've given up trying to dig them out I just leave them and they oooooze out it feels good when they finally give up and pop out....kinda like when the turkeys done...pop...out comes the little thermometer..get well soon.

Mark Griffin · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 60

Yeah I too have seen tape(duct) work nicely at removing spines. Duct tape adhesive ain't the best thing to put on your skin but it's better than cactus. No experience with cholla though. Did they at least give you some drugs at the hospital?

Brent Silvester · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 135

They tried with the drugs, but I am not as financially set as I would like, and only have major medical insurance, so I firmly refused the drugs. I figured the ER room and the Ambulance ride would empty my pockets without any help from meds and drugs.

Legs Magillicutty · · Durango · Joined May 2002 · Points: 590

Brent. . . I have little advice but maybe can help ease your pain with an "I've been there story". Although yours is worse.

I was really, really drunk on tequila one night at Shelf Rd with 2 friends. I got the bright idea to go streaking under the moonlight in the desert. I started running and clothing started flying. The first thing I took off was my SHOES. While running half naked I firmly planted both bare feet on top of a cholla. I fell into the middle of the road, half naked, withering in pain. All I could see out of the corner of my eyes was my 2 half naked partners running to the rescue. They picked me up, laid me down on the picnic table, covered me up and began the torture. One man was by my face. He'd give me a shot of tequila and kiss me to try to distract me while the other guy pulled. It FUKKING hurt. Wow! I really feel for you. If I had balls and had them stuck there I'm sure I would die.

A lot of the quills came out but a lot also broke off. Some of the ones that remained stayed for a long time. My body eventually got rid of them on its own but it took weeks before everything was gone. The mental anguish never goes away but you have a great story to tell and you'll feel better about telling it once the pain goes away.

I will never look at a cholla the same again, or tequila for that matter. :-)

bio · · mesa, az · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 905

I had one in the side of my foot that scarred then a hard scar tissue formed around it and it stayed that way about 3 years. it finally dissolved and now there is only a slight discoloration.

Paul Davidson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 605

Wow, what a bummer.
Post some pics.

Duck tape and time.
Unfortunately, you're basically really screwed.
Cholla is just down right insidious.
In the full moon it gives off a most sinister glow.

If it were me, I'd spend some time each night with a loupe,
a very sharp thin needle and the best tweezers money can buy.
Start digging the festering bastards out.
The festering can actually help because sometimes once they
get to that point you have them suspended in a semi-fluid. ugh...

Saw a buddy take an agave in the knee area years back in Sedona.
3 years later the tip worked it's way out the back of his knee.

Paul Davidson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 605

Sometimes it helps to have a wife who's a doc.....

>From an article on the subject in a dermatology online journal: Glochidia are the cholla spines.

Glochidia may be difficult to remove. Yanking out the bristles may result in leaving one or more 20 micron-30 micron sized barbs in the skin, later to be manifest by granuloma formation.[4] Attempts to suck out the glochidia are likely to result in their attachment to the tongue.[7] Popular methods of removing glochidia have included spreading adhesive plaster over the area and ripping it off quickly or using melted wax (hot wax sometimes employed for removing hair). Martinez et al.[16] studied various methods of removing glochidia from rabbit skin. They evaluated tweezers, glue, facial mask, adhesive tape, package-sealing tape, and tweezing followed by glue. The most effective single method was tweezing, which removed 76% of the spines. The method using a thin layer of household glue (Elmer's Glue-All, Borden Inc) covered with gauze, allowed to dry (about 30 minutes) and then peeled off resulted in removal of 63% of the spines. Facial mask and adhesive tapes removed about 40% and 30% of the spines, respectively, and produced more retention and inflammation three days after removal than no treatment. Repeated applications of adhesive tape did not improve the results.

  • ***==> According to Martinez, the most effective method is to first use tweezers to remove clumps of spines followed by the application and removal of household glue, resulting in removal of 95% of the spines.

And the bad news:
Left untreated, these lesions may last as long as 9 months. A biopsy of the later lesions reveals granuloma formation with plant material embedded in the dermis. The fragments of the barbed bristles gave strongly positive reactions with PAS.[5] The presence of a cactus granuloma lesion is often followed by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

I didn't know about the glue trick.
Now I just hope I never, ever, have to use it.
AJS · · Boulder, CO · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 25

So, to summarize the suggestions so far: duct tape, tequilla and glue...sounds like a good time waiting to happen!

Best of luck Brent!

Shawn Mitchell · · Broomfield · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 250

Oh man, don't know when I've had such an odd sensation of horror, sympathy, and stifled laughter at the same time. Sorry to hear, man...ha ha...really sorry! :)

j fassett · · tucson · Joined May 2006 · Points: 130

Hey Brent, you da man!



j fassett · · tucson · Joined May 2006 · Points: 130


You're already famous! I got that pick off a porn site...grim!

Hope you're doing well,


kirra · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 530

Brent if humor will make you feel better... It looks like your trying out a new dance ~

~ The Funky Cholla ~(:

I hope you don't take this in a bad way (will delete if you do) ~ sincere wishes -kirra

England · · ? · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 260

I feel your pain as I have done this as well. I had a team of three people working on me with pliers to remove the spines. Soaking in a bath with Epsom salt will help get rid of the hooks still embedded in your skin.

gimmesome roy · · alpine, ca · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 110

i think video documentation would be better, what did you do to have god smite you like that?
seriously though, ive had a jumping cholla end up on my leg somehow, a nice 8 inch section, for the life of me i couldnt imagine what would have caused that burning sensation, so instantly without looking i try to knock off whatevers on my leg, turns out, the thing had punctured my leg and was holding tight, with my hand stuck to it, im sure by then i let out a sheepish cry, (i am sure i was under 15) when one of my dads buddies came over with 2 rocks to use like chopsticks...after i got my hand off of the damn thing....
once again, my story doesnt hold a candle to yours, good luck with a quick recovery...

Christian · · Casa do Cacete · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 1,495

Holy sh*t that is my worst nightmare come true!

manuel rangel · · Tempe, Arizona · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 3,768

That's gonna make offwidths uncomfortable for a while. Good luck.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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