Thorn pricks

It’s common to get pricked by a thorn while working in the garden, plucking flowers, fruits or vegetables.

Better not ignore a thorn prick. You need to be watchful. A simple thorn prick may lead to serious medical emergencies like cellulitis, abscess formation, lymphangitis, synovitis or even sepsis or shock like condition.

Earliest treatment is essential.

If you observe any of the following symptoms, medical intervention may be needed.

Signs To Look For

  • Pain or redness at the site of prick
  • Swelling of the finger or part of the body that has got pricked
  • A deep prick that has resulted in substantial bleeding
  • If a part of the plant has got trapped into the skin during the prick
  • Fever, Chills
  • Throbbing pain in the pricked finger
  • Feeling weak or nauseated sometime after the prick
  • Weakness in any part of the body sometime after the prick
  • Yellow discharge from the injured site

Can a Prick Be Poisonous?

Yes, rarely though, a few pricks are poisonous. They may inject chemical potent enough to paralyze your muscles or affect the brain tissue .

Common pricks

  • Prick from a rose thorn or any other flower like bouganvillea, that comes with thorn
  • Touching a cactus and getting pricked
  • Pricked by Sporothix, a fungus usually grown over roses, moses etc and commonly seen


This fungus may exist over roses shrub grown in your garden. It is also present over moses, and may be inhaled from it.

If you get prick by a rose infected by this fungus, the fungus may get injected into your body at the site of puncture. After entering the body, the fungal spores grow and replicate to spread quickly into the body tissues.

They infect the puncture site, where you may see pus. As they spread via lymphatic channels, it’s common to see swollen lymph nodes of the near by areas.

If left untreated, the whole lymphatic channel gets infected, a serious condition called lymphangitis, where you have fever with chills, loss of appetite. Lymph is in touch with every vital organ of the body, including the brain. The fungus gets a chance to affect your brain.

Prick from this fungus is sometimes rightly called a prick of death.


Why Does It Occur?

Occurs due to a break in the skin integrity, that allows bacteria lying over it to get into the underlying tissue.

Cellulitis occurs when the infection reaches into the deeper subcutaneous tissues spaces.


  • The area of skin affected is warm, red and slightly swollen.
  • It is usually painful.
  • Cellulitis is often accompanied by lymphatic tissue involvement. You may see a red streak going up from the affected limb.
  • Else, nearby lymph nodes may be seen swollen.


  • There may be a broken part of the thorn in the punctured wound. First of all, we need to remove this.
  • Stretch the affected skin area gently and apply an adhesive tape or a simple cello tape over it . Tiny portions of the broken thorn are likely to get stuck to it.
  • Self examine the wound under a hand lens. If you still notice any broken thorn part of any other foreign body inside, wash the affected area under cool water.
  • This may wash it away. If it’s still there, you need sterilized needle to tweezers to carefully remove it.
  • Next comes controlling bleeding. If the site bleeds, it’s advisable to let it bleed a bit. This is beneficial as it washes away any foreign object or infecting germs that have been trying to enter the prick site.
  • Excess bleeding may be stopped by directly applying pressure over the site or injury.
  • Next, apply an antibiotic ointment over the prick site liberally.  This is to arrest infection. You may bandage it, if the injury is big.
  • It’s not advisable to use hydrogen peroxide or betadiene for cleaning, as these chemicals delay healing.
  • Watch the site of prick. If you notice any alarming sign, rush to the emergency at the earliest to avoid emergencies.

Medical Advice (Q&As) on “Swollen Finger By Thorn Prick

  1. Mona

    I got a thorn in my middle finger knuckle on the side. It bled a lot, after I took the thorn out, then the knuckle turned blue and swelled. The swelling went way down but is still swelled a bit and is back to a normal skin color. Should I be concerned? I washed it with soap and water.

  2. RSG

    Two weeks after thorn prick finger still red and swollen. No evidence of lymph gland problem.
    I soak sometimes and it seems to help, but skin has healed over.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Better to start applying an antibiotic ointment over the injury area. You may use mupirocin/ bactroban.

      Do update us about its status

  3. Uni

    My thumb was pricked by some thorn that was in my hair and my thumb is very swollen and it hurts to move it at all. There is no visible puncture (the thorn was very small and was kind of sticky) but my thumb still hurts even after 30 minutes of being pricked. I have had cellulitis before two years ago but not on my hand.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Try soaking the affected thumb in salted luke warm water for around 3 to 4 minutes. You may do this 3 to 4 times a day.

      If there’s no improvements, or if you get fever, throbbing pain, antibiotics need to be started ant the earliest.

  4. Terri Wade

    I have a rose thorn prick the top of my hand at the knuckle. It was small. Hardly bled and was easily removed. I washed my hands and went about my day. The next morning the entire back of my hand had swelled amd was red. I wasnt able to make a first and had a burning achy pain. Applied antibacterial cream and iced it often. Monday it’s still swollen and tender. It feels much like a bruise and the joints in my finger ache. The puncture site is tiny however a little red. I have never had this happen before when pricked by a thorn.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Keep applying the antibacterial cream. If you observe no reduction in swelling or pain, you may need to take oral antibiotics. This may be Cellulitis.

  5. Evan Weiss

    Having trouble finding information on cactus punctures. Was repotting a cactus yesterday and got a small prick on my index finger knuckle on my right hand. Washed it immediately . Small red mark. Woke up to joint pain in my entire index finger today. Not really swollen but a little red.

    That said I’m a little concerned as I have never experienced anything quite like this before. Have had Cellulitis once and it doesn’t really feel like that especially with the lack of swelling. Any preventative measure I can take besides keeping it clean?

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Well, you may start applying an antibiotic ointment, like mupirocin/ bactroban, over the area thrice daily, as a precaution.

      Make sure, there’s no foreign material, like a piece of thorn, in there.

  6. holly

    I had poked myself with those cinnamon scented pinecones about 2 days ago now my thumb is swollen and turning a dark purple around the wound which is pretty much a paper cut. should I be concerned and what do I do?

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      To be on safe side, start applying an antibiotic ointment (mupirocin/ bacitracin) over it thrice daily. Watch for any pus surfacing over the area. If you see any, it may need a drainage.

      If the swelling/ pain or stiffness over the area increase, you may need to see a doctor.

  7. Amanda

    i was outside and got poked by a little thorn with a white topping, i’m not sure where it came from but it hurt while it was in my finger and a little red dot appeared, then turned white around it. It started to swell up and became numb, it’s been 2 hours and the numbness and swelling is still there. My finger has a throbbing feeling to it aswel

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Drain well from the injury site with a little squeezing and washing under ample water. This would assure that there’s no foreign body inside.

      You may then start applying mupirocin/ bactroban ointment over the injury site, thrice daily .It should start improving with in a day or two.

      If not, or you see a growth in pain/ swelling, you’ll need oral antibiotics.

  8. Mike Briggs

    Clearing brush, briars, etc.9 days ago. Left pointer finger apparently got stuck between middle knuckle and hand knuckle. I felt puncture, saw blood through glove, removed glove and area was swollen, blue, around wound. That night applied ice and antibiotic cream. Finger has remained sore around wound area and middle knuckle and painful to bend. Still swollen some. Kept me awake last night

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Are you able to move your finger around all finger joints?

      Keep applying the antibiotic cream thrice daily.

  9. Katie

    I was pricked my a thorn when cutting a bush today. my finger bleed but this evening it’s throbbing and feels sore I’m worried that I’m going to catch something or it wil get infected what should I do should I go to the doctor? Thank you

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Clean the wound area thoroughly with any antiseptic solution.

      If you see any swelling/ redness or presence of pus, you may need to seek medical help. Antibiotics need to be prescribed.

  10. Dolores Larrick

    I pricked my finger helping my husband moving some cacti. My finger was swollen and I had a hard time bending it for a couple days. Movement is back now my finger is purplish.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Since you’re able to move it, it’s likely that the swelling has reduced. Overall inflammation inside the tissues appear to be healing.

      Your body is likely to clear off with the left over inflammation within a few days.

      However, if it pains, becomes red or swollen, do let us know.

  11. Ann

    A thorn pricked my finger. It became swollen in that area and red. Ive taken oral antibiotics and its improved but still red and tender to touch. Also been applying antibiotic ointment. What else can I do?

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Just keep taking the antibiotic coverage. It sounds infected.

      You may also try warm compress over the affected site to aid pus drainage; if you suspect pus inside.

  12. Vanessa Rodriguez

    I was in my backyard picking fruit from 3 trees. One tree was a mandarin tree, an orange tree and the last tree was a lemon tree. I was picking them with my bare hands and when I was finished I went inside to wash my hands with soap and water. When I was getting ready to go to bed I noticed my finger was swollen. It’s red around the area where it’s swollen but I can still move my finger. There isn’t puss forming around my nail. The swelling is on one side only.

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Looks you’ve got some minor prick over it. Since it’s swollen, it’s likely to be infected. You may need antibiotics for this.

      Start applying any topical antibiotic ointment over it. In case you don’t see it improve in a day or two, oral prescription antibiotics may be needed.

  13. Arii

    Hi! I got cactus thorn inside my thumb few days ago. I took it out. the skin over it healed and now I think some part of thorn was left inside. the area is now red and hurting. also a pus like thing is forming under my skin. what should I do? should I go see a doctor?

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      The pus inside has to be drained aseptically. An antibiotic cream may then be applied over the site.

      You may see a doctor, if possible. If not, do it at home with all precautions of asepsis.

  14. Ningen

    A very unusual thing: An accident occured and my penis got pricked by a bouganvillea thorn a few hours earlier, a lot of blood also came but bleeding stopped very soon. The thorn got pricked inside the penile opening. I almost blacked out from this. For now i just cleaned the bloods and put some honey. Is this thorn poisonous? And what should be my procedure from here?

  15. Josh

    Hello, I was mowing my lawn last week and got pricked by what I think was a blackberry bush a few different places under my arm on the side of my body and a few places on my back. the sites are swollen and itchy and the redness seems to be spreading a bit locally to the site. Should I see a doctor since it hasn’t seemed to improve for a week?

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Yes. You may need antibiotics and some anti histaminics too. It’s advisable to start medication at the earliest.

  16. Parvag

    I had this thorn in my hand about 2 months ago. But I took out the thorn with the needle. After a while, I see that the place is swollen and painful and is still swollen. What do I do now? Thanks in advance

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Likely to be an infection that has crept in. You need to take antibiotics as early as possible. See a doctor.

  17. Mustanggirl

    While working in the woods, a thorn went through gloves and stuck in my finger. I wasn’t able to get the thorn out until the next night when I was able to get someone to help me. By that time the painful area was a swollen bump larger than a pencil eraser and red. Not much pus came out and no blood. Washed and soaked in Epsom salt then antibiotic cream on a bandage.
    It’s not as painful now that the thorn is out, but is still swollen and red.
    What should I do?
    Thank you

  18. Peter B

    Get exceeding fine thorns in fingers due to ?? Loganberriey picking.
    These make bumps that make wart-like lumps.
    I THINK I get the fine hair thorns out quickly but sometimes… find warts like lumps forming.
    Is this dangerous?

    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Could be. Minute pathogens may get inside those micro punctures created by berry picking.

      Would be better to wear gloves while handling them.


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