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Pricked by a Bougainvillea

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I was trimming bougainvillea and a thorn poked my finger through the gloves I was wearing. Three days later, my finger is stiff, red, and very sore. I cannot bend it at the joint where I was poked. Is this something that needs to be treated? I don't see a visible thorn. Can I get an infection?

Hardiness Zone: 10a

Michelle from San Diego


Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By 4TruLady [5]06/12/2015

Yes Michelle, I strongly encourage you to get to a physician or urgent care center. It's always better to be safe rather than sorry.

By Valerie P.03/01/2015

I was pricked by an old, dead Bougainvillea thorn on my mid middle finger. 3 days later that finger was swollen to twice its size, red, throbbing, burning and with a severe pressure pain. Next day had purply blisters lateral finger and severe finger joints pain. Was put on Keflex and prednisone and has helped little. The pain is traveling down to my mid hand and I can barely bend that finger at any of the joints , now also including the knuckle.

My husband does most of the gardening and gets pricked by bougainvillea frequently without reaction. Some of us are sensitive to the substance that coats the thorns. I'm getting quite concerned about how long it will take for this syndrome to resolve.

By anj82809/15/2014

You might want to look at this. I have a hard time with bougainvillea thorn pricks. I am also allergic to a lot of plants, however it seems like their thorns are coated with something that can effect some people.

By ekdorough0203/23/2014

I believe I was pricked several times by that plant in the woods it is a large thick tree like briar so I looked it up and I am not fully sure if it is poisoning to prick but it hurts.

By Ouch06/16/2013

I too have allergic reaction if brushed/stuck/poked by thorns. The dermatitis similar to poison ivy, takes long time to heal.
Immediately wash area with soap and water, then nurse as any contact dermatitis. Check out info on this at:
Also, use your head for deep punctures of any nature, either it is a clean in/out wound and healing or needs medical attention.

By Sally L.01/19/2013

On New Year's Day this year (19 days ago) I was racking up leaves as my husband was trimming the bougainvillea on our fence. I stupidly wasn't wearing shoes and stepped back onto a cut branch and onto a think thorn approx 2 cm long into the ball of my left foot.

I went to the Doctor day 3 as I could hardly walk on it and was aching constantly. I had no redness or swelling and the thorn was definately still attached to the branch after I trod on it. She scheduled an ultrascan but I had to re schedule as we were going away. I started soaking it in a warm salt bucket each night Xbox it began to feel ok. On the last day of our trip (day 13) I was looking at it and looking at the hole in my foot.. I prodded it a little to see if it was sore deeper... Stupid idea... The next day it was sore again, and I'm back to hobbling on it.. Waking me at night.

Tonight I have a new symptom My whole leg to the knee is aching..badly.. I still have no redness or signs of infection.... Wondering if this sounds familiar to anyone else and how long I can expect this to last. A busy mother of three...from Brisbane Australia! Cheers!

By gileadite04/18/2012

I just got pricked by the bougainvillea today and apparently it hit my vein.

I could see the swelling and redness on my right hand where my inflammatory response is working, which is normal. As for now, I think I should still observe my wound.

By fastlane8539503/08/2012

I trimmed a bv, and stuck myself six or seven times it has been three days and I have a uncontrollable itching and rash almost obsessive the bumps have spread all over both arms no fever or chills I happen to have some bactrim and am dosing up on it I will keep you posted I thought if not better by morning its off to doctor it itches so bad I am ready to cut my arms off.

RE: Pricked by a Bougainvillea

By schlubadub01/08/2012

What nonsense answers! Bougainvillea isn't poisonous. I prune my bougainvillea back all the time and I always end up getting stabbed a few times by the thorns and get big cuts on my forearms with no adverse effects.

I actually pruned my bougainvilleas today and I have: 3 stabbed fingers, a puncture wound in my palm, a stabbed foot, and no less than 30 cuts on my forearms (some bled quite a lot at the time, the longest cut is almost 10cm). They are red at the moment, but that is normal for fresh cuts. I washed all the wounds and I am not concerned about them. I am more worried about my sunburn.

I would suggest that people having a weird reaction have some sort of allergy either to the plant, or to pesticides / insecticides they may have sprayed on the plant. It is also possible part of the thorn is still in your skin, which would explain the swelling, but it should be pushed out naturally by your body. If the swelling gets too big, it could be an infection which would require a visit to the local doctor and some antibiotics.

By DAVID09/07/2010

Hi, I was pricked after stepping on a bougainvillea thorn (1 1/2" long)It went straight through my Crocs! It's been 8 days now and I can barely walk. It seems to get better then worsen. I've been taking antibiotics for the last 5 days and ibuprofen. Is there an antidote for this plant's poison?
David (adult male, Adelaide)

By Lederhosen01/31/2010

I got pricked by a baugainvillas (quite frequently) did not think much of it. However I have pretty nasty sideeffects, sometimes one side of my face becomes red and travels to the other side and starts swelling up. I was not aware of being toxic. From now on I'm using Benadryl which takes care of it within apprx, 4 to 5 days as well as the fever symptoms.

By tom06/20/2009

I was stuck deep into my index finger knuckle with one the other day it's red, stiff and soar, been almost a week now, I can bend it but it's soar and the site is red. I'm gonna soak it right now and get the doctor to look at it Monday.

By simone (Guest Post)02/15/2009

I got pricked by a bougainvillea thorn a month ago and it still hurts. I saw a doctor and I took pain killer but it still hurts. Then my sister stepped on one. There is some type of curse upon us!

By jessica (Guest Post)01/20/2009

Can I ask where all these people are who were pricked? I'm in Queensland, Australia. Just wondering if maybe we don't have a poisonous bougainvillea here? I got a thorn in my foot yesterday, and it's sore to walk on now, but no swelling, fever etc. Hoping it won't get worse. :)

By Cindy (Guest Post)11/22/2008

I stepped on a bougainvillea thorn 5 weeks ago - was on a dried branch that had been clipped. It pierced quite deep but didnt think much- 5 weeks later was still a big ball under the skin and was sore. Went to the foot doctor and had surgery immediately (very painful and very expensive- they cut out a piece of my foot and now am in excrutiating pain and unable to walk- will take 5-6 weeks to heal). It was extrememly infected- combination of the toxic thorn (yes, they are toxic) and the deep puncture. It is very very dangerous not to treat a wound from a bougainvillea... take it very seriously.... (I was told left untreated it could potentially spread the infection thru your body causing sepsis or staph infection-leading to death)

By Sharon (Guest Post)07/21/2008

My husband was pricked by one of them; he became very ill and ended up in the hospital with MRSA; he had a huge hunk of his leg cut out. After about 6 months, he's finally healed.

By TERRI (Guest Post)07/17/2008

I was stuck in the joint of my thumb by my bougainvilla yesterday while trying to take it from in the ground to a pot. It was painful immediately by nightfall, it was swollen and very sore. Today, it is red and stiff and very sore. I had no idea those thorns were poisonous, scary.

By Lisa D (Guest Post)07/02/2008

I stepped on a bougainvillea plant and got an painful infected swelling on my foot. The next day I had fever and chills (and I am an adult!) I didn't see a doctor and was fine the following day, but plan to be more careful around the plant from now on.

By Brandi06/15/2008

# The juice or sap of these plants contains oxalate crystals. These needle-shaped crystals can irritate the skin, mouth, tongue, and throat, resulting in throat swelling, breathing difficulties, burning pain, and stomach upset. Call the Poison Control Center or your doctor if any of these symptoms appear following ingestion of plants.
# Dermatitis: The juice, sap, or thorns of these plants may cause a skin rash or irritation. Wash the affected area of skin with soap and water as soon as possible after contact. The rashes may be very serious and painful. Call the Poison Control Center or your doctor if symptoms appear following contact with the plants.

**Taken from

By Stacey (Guest Post)06/15/2008

I'm not sure, but I was pricked by the same plant's thorn and now it is stiff and sensative (It hurts to walk on my foot because of the prick). I wonder if the thorn has poison or some other fluid within.

By Meg. (Guest Post)04/29/2008

My two yr old stepped on a bougainvillea and the next day he ran a fever of 101 all day? Anyone heard of that before? No one else is sick and his molars already came in just wondered if it was the plant or if thats possible.

By Dan (Guest Post)02/28/2008

My father stepped on one of these about 3 months ago and he still has troubles walking on it, It wakes him up through the night and hes even on antibiotics for it. Anyone who even thinks they have been pricked by one of these should see a doctor.

By sharon (Guest Post)08/30/2007

Can anyone give me an update on the lady in the hospital with the infection from the bougainvillea? I was stuck with the thorn today, and my finger is very sore.

By kp (Guest Post)08/04/2007

my mom is in the hospital on antibotic IV in an effort to get infection under control from a week old scratch by a bougainvillea thorn...we are scared

By margie austin, (Guest Post)07/12/2007

I pricked my thumb on a bouganvilla plant. In a day or two my thumb was swollen red and very much in pain. Soaking it in salt water has helped a little but I need to see a doctor today.

By mike04/13/2007

has anyone heard of a thorn free bougainvillea..

By mike (Guest Post)04/13/2007

has anyone have a picture of this plant please respond

By Cheryl (Guest Post)06/23/2006

You may want to get that checked by your doctor. It could be an infection that needs antibiotics

By Karen [9]06/23/2006

Please go to a doctor NOW. I was bitten by a mosquito....and ended up in the hospital for a week.
Pensacola, FL

By Marge Mayhew [2]06/22/2006

Until you get to a doctor.........soak it in a solution of epsom salt and warm water. That should draw some of the poison out of it. Do you have a red swollen finger or are there red streaks running away from the initial sore area? If you have red streaks you need to get yourself to a doctor........NOW!

By sandy [63]06/22/2006

i would say if you cant move your finger you need to go to the doctor NOW

By (Guest Post)06/22/2006

See a doctor right away! Any time you prick the skin you can get an infection.

By (Guest Post)06/22/2006

You most definitely need to get to a doctor!!


Here are questions related to Pricked by a Bougainvillea.

Question: Treating a Bougainvillea Thorn Prick

How do you treat a bougainvillea thorn in your thumb?

By Reza

Most Recent Answer

By DeBushe [18]12/24/2012

Pull out the thorn. Make it bleed a little. Wash your hands with soap and water. Put an antibiotic ointment on the prick. Put a bandaid on it.

Question: Can Bougainvillea Cause Itching

Can bougainvillea cause severe itching?

By melroyse

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