First rule: If it's a plant that lives on the desert, it probably has thorns. It's just the nature of the matter. Best way to avoid getting stuck: Look, take pictures, admire – but do it from a distance. There are some varieties of cactus that you don't want anywhere near. Popularly called "jumping cactus," these cute little Cholla look a lot like fuzzy teddy bears, but their cuteness vanishes the minute you get hit with their thorns. No, they don't really jump, but just lightly brushing up against one will cause miles of misery. So when we say, "admire from a distance," make it several inches away – preferably feet.
Two types of cactus darts, and coping with them
Once you get the spine removed, do tend to the wound quickly. Ideally, soap and water cleaning is all that's required, but not always easily at hand in the field. A bit more painful, but useful nonetheless, hand sanitizer. Don't ignore the wound, it can infect.
What if you can't get the thing out? It's best to visit a doctor or other medical professional. They may advise just letting the thing come out on its own, or use their own methods to convince the recalcitrant thing to depart.
|Cholla almost invites a touch|
|Prickly Pear (Prowitt/Pixabay)|
If you come away from a close encounter of the glochid kind, here's what advice we can offer. First, RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO SUCK YOUR SORE FINGER! No kidding! These nasty little things will find it an open invitation to jump from your finger to your tongue with seriously disastrous results to speech, food enjoyment, and love life. Yell and scream if you will, but keep that infested skin away from your mouth.
Getting these rascals out of your hide is a two-part approach. First, to get about three-quarters of them out means painstakingly using tweezers to pull the barbs out. You may need the help of a magnifying class. And no, from personal experience, the pliers on your pocket tool are just not fine enough for this process. Get as many of these spines out as you can, and when you get back to base camp, get out the Elmer's glue. Yep, put a light coating of white glue over the affected area, and while still wet, add a layer of medical gauze. Let the whole mess dry for about a half hour, and peel away the gauze. Duct tape only pulls about half the spines out that the glue and gauze method. According to one scientific researcher, first using tweezers, then the glue patch, gets about 95 percent of the spines out.
Once you've gotten what glochids you can out of your hide, if you suffer from dermatitis, applying over the counter corticosteroids is about the only way to cope until the matter resolves itself. If you're really troubled, visit with your doctor.