For those of you who aren’t my Facebook fans, and didn’t hear about this, I stepped on a nail a couple of weeks ago while working on putting up a fence. It wasn’t a big deal, just a pain. Literally. I’ve heard of people stepping on nails and they only puncture the sole of their sock, while others make it impossible to walk for a few days.
I didn’t realize I’d stepped on it, until I tried to move and my shoe wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t until I jerked my foot up and felt a twinge of pain when I realized that the nail had punctured my foot. After pulling my shoe off, I quickly saw the blood soaking my sock.
Great. Obviously, the best course of action would have been to not step on the nail. I did some research after the fact, and found out the best ways to avoid getting hurt.
Whenever possible, wear steel-toed boots or at least those with a thick, durable sole.
Working on the homestead is definitely not the time to try out your new ballet flats or flip-flops! But of course, you probably already know that. Keeping the homestead neat and tidy is a good way to eliminate the clutter and reduce your likelihood of stepping on a foreign object, as is keeping all brush trimmed away from common walking areas.
I really didn’t want to have to go get a Tetanus Shot. And I was highly annoyed that my careless mishap could end up costing us a pretty penny. Like we have money to be throwing away on a doctor’s visit!
If you don’t have insurance, a visit to the emergency visit can wreak havoc on your budget. Stitches can cost up to $3,000 if you end up needing them, with a walk-in visit alone costing close to $100 – that’s even if you don’t end up needing any treatment!
I got on Facebook and many of you offered some very good advice. This is what I ended up doing: First off I cleaned the wound with Peroxide, rubbed on some Neosporin, and slapped on a bandaid. But after reading some suggestions, I started soaking my foot in hot water with Epsom salt 2-3 times a day for at least 30 min. each time. Then I’d dry it off and, using a Q-tip, rubbed the sore with Lavender Oil (Tea Tree Oil would have been good too). I tried to let it stay unbandaged as much as possible, so that it could get lots of air.
When you apply an essential oil, you want to first make sure the area is clean and sanitized, and then apply just a few drops of oil (always test it on an uninfected area of your skin first, to make sure you aren’t allergic!). If the oil runs right off your foot, you can instead mix the oil with a carrier, like coconut oil, to help thicken it into a paste that wills tay better on your foot.
Lavender is good for a deep cut because it has anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties that will make it more difficult to your wound to pick up an infection. It can also reduce the pain from your cut and although it won’t totally eliminate them, it can help reduce the appearance of scars. Tea tree oil behaves in a similar way.
Another unique oil you can use is myrrh (yes, like in the Biblical Christmas stories!). Myrrh helps promote healing and seals the wound. It’s a good choice if there are lots of smaller cuts on your foot or rashes. If you’re having trouble staunching the flow of blood, you might consider using rose geranium essential oil. This can stop blood flow and allows your skin to speed up the healing process.
While my home remedy was pretty basic, I did some research on other natural treatments for puncture wounds while I was healing. Some are pretty, well, out there, while a few more seemed like they might work well in a pinch.
Milk, for example, works well, as it calms the skin and provides it with a boost of healing nutrients. Some old-timers recommend using sour milk, but I’m not sure the reasoning behind that remedy. My mother used to make me put hot, salty water on the wound – which hurts!- but is a great way to sanitize the wound. Soaking in salt water – particularly that including Epsom salts – also helps to draw toxins and any remaining residue out of the wound.
Some of my family members mentioned using activated charcoal mixed with flax seed and olive oil. This will help create a thick paste that can be applied to an infection. This helps draw out an infection and speed your healing.
Manuka honey is another good choice, but you can use any honey if you don’t have this variety. It’s a natural antibiotic and although it can be a bit sticky and not exactly fun to work with, it’s a decent option to help cleanse the skin and prevent more dirt or bacteria from entering.
Hydrogen peroxide is another great choice for disinfecting a wound. It will introduce oxygen, allowing air to flow, and will also act as a debriding agent. Remember that puncture wounds are different than scratches or other wounds because they allow toxins to directly enter into the injured area.
While essential oils and other treatments may help fight infection on the surface, you still need to keep an eye on the wound because they don’t necessarily have “pulling power” to extract foreign objects or dirt from the body.
A BIG thanks to my friends Rachel and Pat in particular, for doctoring me via the internet!
After a few days, it did begin healing nicely. I was nervous about an infection setting in, as it was a bit red and tender for those first few days. But my friends assured me that a little soreness was normal. As long as it was not very red, hot to touch, or oozing, it was doing okay. Those are some of the classic signs of infection. Here are some others.
You might notice soreness that increases and peaks after a few days, as well as warmth and redness surrounding the area. You might have some serious swelling, fever, or even a nasty discharge from the wound. Infection can appear as early as a day or as late as fourteen days after the injury, and can lead to greater complications, such as joint or bone infections.
I am glad I didn’t run straight to the doctor’s office. I’m not saying that you should do what I do. I’m just telling you that this worked for me. An emergency room visit is not always necessary when you step on a nail, but this is a reason to definitely consider going.
If the nail was super dirty, and you don’t know for sure that you have had a tetanus shot within the last five years, you should definitely head to the emergency room. They will give you a tetanus booster or a full shot, if you haven’t ever had one. If you know it’s been at least ten years since your last booster shot, definitely head over to get a booster. You will need to do this within forty-eight hours of an injury.
Even if you don’t think the nail you stepped on was particularly dirty, if you aren’t up to date on your tetanus shot, it’s important that you become vaccinated immediately. Tetanus can cause serious symptoms, like muscle spasms and stiffness, difficultly wallowing, and life-threatening reactions.
If you can’t get the bleeding under control, or if there is a piece of nail or another foreign object in your foot, head to the doctor’s. In many cases, you can get the nail out of your foot without any problem, but continuing to mess with it can cause greater bleeding, complications, or even bone damage. Let the professionals take care of you, even if it’s a bit expensive!
But the whole point of me sharing this story wasn’t really to tell you how I treated a nail wound, but rather to share with you an old folk remedy that I find very interesting.
When my husband got a look at the hole in my foot the first thing he told me was that whenever he stepped on a nail as a kid, his grandfather would always put Kerosene on it. As a matter of fact, he’d put Kerosene on any broken skin.
Honestly, I thought that sounded crazy. But after asking around, other people I’ve spoken to have also recalled using Kerosene when they were growing up. When I went to visit my friend Adelia this past Monday, I told her about how I’d stepped on a nail and what I’d done to treat it. She smiled and asked, “You didn’t use Kerosene?” I was surprised that even she would say that! She showed me the little medicine bottle with a dropper in it that she uses just for Kerosene.
I guess Kerosene works well because it is a powerful antimicrobial, but it can irritate your skin and has also been linked to increased risks of cancer. However, other petroleum products (like Vaseline), work just as well without the irritation and risks.
So, next time I think I’ll try this Kerosene remedy or something similar for a nail wound. Along with the Epsom soaks and essential oils, of course.
These are great ways to treat your injury without having to fork out thousands of dollars at the doctor’s office. If you’re not the type to panic about an injury, and especially if you’re in already good health, a small puncture wound is nothing to worry about.
Your body is pretty good at fighting infection, so if you know you are up to date on a tetanus shot, you will probably be okay with trying to heal the wound on your own. If the person who stepped on the nail is very old or very young, has a compromised immune system, or is pregnant, always get them emergency medical care right away – you don’t want to risk an infection in a situation like this.
However, if you’re unlucky enough to step on a nail and don’t want to take the essential oil route, here are some other, more traditional healing steps you can take.
First and foremost, wash your hands. Bacteria can quickly enter your body in a puncture wound. You don’t necessarily have to disinfect your hands with hand sanitizer – soap and warm water work just fine – but make sure you wash for at least twenty seconds.
If your wound is bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean rag. Don’t press down too hard, as this can hurt your foot even more, but just enough to create some clots. Next, you need to clean your wound. Try to get the blood to stop flowing first, as this can make it more difficult to clean your wound. However, it’s really important that you don’t skip this step, as a dirty wound can cause serious bacterial infections, like tetanus. Unfortunately, tetanus is pretty easy to find around the homestead, as it is found in dirt, animal feces, and even dust. Yikes!
To clean your wound, rinse your foot with clean water for five or ten minutes to help loosen any dirt. You might need to use a pair of tweezers to pull out any larger pieces of debris – which might include pieces of your sock or shoe! Just make sure the tweezers are disinfected before beginning. Then disinfect your foot with soap and water. You might also consider covering your wound with a thin layer of an antibiotic cream, like Neosporin.
Next you need to cover your wound. It can take several days – or weeks – for it to heal. Wrap it in a large, thick bandage to keep it clean. Keep in mind that the thicker the bandage, the more cushioning you’ll have to help your foot heal as you continue to walk on it. That being said, if you leave it unwrapped, like I did, this will let air circulate to better heal the wound.
If you can avoid walking on it, that’s better, as it will prevent your foot from becoming repeatedly ripped open. However, we will be realistic here, as we know your homestead life is probably just as busy as mine, and avoiding walking for a few days probably isn’t practically.
If avoiding exercise isn’t an option, just make sure you keep your bandages clean. Change them once a day, ideally after showering, when they’ll be easier to remove. You might see a little bit of fresh blood on the bandages each time you change them, but as long as your foot isn’t bleeding profusely, this is nothing to worry about.
You can take some minor pan medications if you feel the need, as these will help with the inflammation and pain. Ibuprofen or naproxen sodium are both good choices. Just keep yourself comfortable while the injury heals, which usually takes a couple of weeks.
That being said, if you notice any of the signs of infection that I mentioned before, you might want to hustle to a doctor. Yes, doctor’s visits are expensive, but a serious infection – which in extreme cases can be life-threatening – is not worth messing with.
updated by Rebekah White on 08/04/2018
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.