A while back I sustained a severe laceration to my index finger. The nurse instructed me to soak in straight betadine solution for 30 minutes. Our daughter Mia was with me and the two of us just looked at each other and thought this was crazy! I, being moderately intelligent, questioned this. Not surprisingly, the nurse got a bit nasty, said the "doctor" knew what he was doing and slammed the door shut. (Things were already off to a deplorable start.) The "doctor" at urgent care finally came into the room and proceeded to drip and drop the cut with purple medical crazy glue as I told him 'it's just going straight into the cut, is that right?' He said, 'Of course.' And then he proceeded to wrap and wrap and wrap some more for good measure, the wound in steri-strips. (Again, more questioning from me...) He said stitches would probably make things worse. (Oh yeah! Stitches would do that!) Then he wrapped it in gauze, gave me no other major directions, offered to remove me from work (since it was a workman's comp issue) and sent me back to my commercial kitchen.
Cut to nearly a week later, when he said it would be time to return to him for a follow up. I kept my finger dry by wrapping it in a bag when I showered and did my best at work to keep it safe. By the fourth day or so, my finger changed. It really began to hurt. I worked up the courage to unwrap it and remove the strips. Well, it was not good. My finger tip was dying... It was severely infected and looked utterly frightening. I was scared and a bit panicked.
I returned to urgent care and got assistance from a staff that actually cared if I lost my finger tip or not... The PA I saw photographed it from many angles, consulted with the finger specialist and instructed me to 'have faith' and to try to 'keep calm.' (It's only my hand after all!) The PA instructed a nurse to prepare a diluted betadine solution I soaked in for a carefully timed six minutes. Then, the PA said to soak my finger everyday thereafter for 10 minutes in epsom salts, to keep it clean and dry and to allow it to breath. The nurse dressed the wound, splinted my finger, wrapped me up to my wrist in an ace bandage, put me on a five pound lifting limit, gave me an antibiotic and sent me home with strict instructions to return in three days and thereafter we'd see how it was going.
I nearly flew home to begin the regime of soaking. I had never used Epsom salts before let alone on something this severely infected! The soaking stung but I was willing to do most anything to prevent losing my fingertip. By the next day, my finger was so much better. It was like a miracle! When I returned to see the PA, she nearly fell over with disbelief! (She too thought my fingertip was a goner.) I could hardly believe my own eyes! I always thought epsom salts where a lot of hewey. I was a complete and utter disbeliever. Well, Dear Readers, I am a believer now!
I recently posted a blog about another finger injury I got by playing hide and seek with a razor. (The razor won.) That injury recently became infected too, so last night my husband made an epsom salt solution and guess what? My boo-boo is MUCH better today. The soaking bit stings but it's better than the alternative of things becoming serious or worse. As I sat there, soaking in the warm water, I began to wonder about the history of epsom salts and how and why people began soaking rituals with them in the first place.
Epsom salt is hydrated magnesium sulfate (a chemical other salts do not share) and was accidentally discovered on an English farm in the 1600's by some cows. That's right Dear Readers, cows. We have a group of usually brilliant cows to thank for epsom salts. (Epsom is an actual town by the way.) Anyway, the cows began to dance and sing and even talk after tasting the bitter water. Just kidding, but their boo-boos did heal more quickly so the English farmer figured he was on to something and the rest is history.
If you want to give soaking with epsom salt a try, there are many "recipes" online but a pretty basic one is 1/2 cup epsom salt to 1 quart heated water. As with anything, consult a doctor about your boo-boo. I am not a doctor, I only play one on the internet.
Share your experiences with epsom salts in the comments sections.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor