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An old-fashioned remedy would work

January 26, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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About three weeks ago I bumped the middle finger on my left hand—and it hurt! When I looked at it, I saw that the cuticle at the base of my nail was red.

A few days later I bumped that finger again and it really hurt. An aide helped me turn my hand to look at it. My cuticle was even redder and swollen. I thought it looked infected, and asked the nurse if she would put antibiotic ointment and a bandage on it. She did, but I could only do that for two days.

Every time I bumped my finger it hurt because, without a covering, it was unprotected. I knew there was infection under the skin that needed to come out. One afternoon, I asked an aide, who is going to college to become a veterinarian, if she would squeeze my finger's swollen area with her gloved hand. She massaged my finger briefly, and when she squeezed the infection out I got immediate relief. She cleaned it with an alcohol pad and it felt much better.

When my finger stayed red, however, I was concerned. I usually heal quickly and wondered if my age was slowing down the healing process. Then I realized there was probably still some remaining infection causing the redness.

I asked my nurse if I could try a topical remedy on my finger. I printed out information about a drawing salve which contains ichthammol, a remedy my parent used for years. This over-the-counter ointment can be purchased at any drugstore. While ichthammol is a veterinary product, it works on humans, too. I told the nurse it would relieve the pain and draw the infection out of my finger overnight.

I heard nothing more about the treatment I suggested. I was told my doctor would be in to check on my finger. My doctor said it could be psoriasis or a local infection. He ordered antibiotic ointment to the area for five days. If the infection did not clear up, he would switch me to an oral antibiotic.

The antibiotic ointment has helped and my finger has healed. It is unfortunate I could not use the drawing salve on my finger. It would have relieved the pain and drawn out the infection sooner and antibiotic ointment would not have been necessary.



Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...