Infection – a Warning to Gardeners

I’ve been quiet for a few days. Here’s why.

Four days ago, I was sweeping out the potting shed when I got a tiny splinter in the palm of my hand. It looked like nothing serious. A tiny dot of blood. I inspected the wooden broom handle and could see a rough patch. I hadn’t noticed it before. I nearly always wear gloves. But this time I was in a hurry, and didn’t put them on. I finished sweeping before popping back to the house to run my hand under cold water. I fished out the splinter with tweezers, popped on a plaster and carried on gardening. And I never thought any more about it.

There’s always plenty to do here. Flowers to pick, weeds to pull out. But I started to feel ill. Not quite my usual chirpy self. I couldn’t think straight. I went on the radio on Wednesday, and I couldn’t think of any plant names. It seemed odd. I was struggling. Somewhat preoccupied with family matters, I didn’t notice my hand starting to itch and turn red. But on Thursday morning, I woke up at dawn and my hand was swelling and stiff. And there was a red line creeping up my arm.

I rang my local doctors surgery and told the receptionist what I was seeing. I said I thought it was an infection. I might have mentioned that I’d had sepsis before, three years ago. She said there were no appointments, but she could offer me a telephone consultation, which I accepted. Then I sat and thought about it. The doctor would surely want to see my hand. That would take time. If it was an infection I needed antibiotics, quickly. So I phoned 111, and explained what was wrong. The nurse on the line made an immediate appointment for me at the urgent care centre in Nottingham. I was there within 20 minutes and was seen by a triage nurse 20 minutes later. Within three and a half hours I had a prescription for oral antibiotics. I still had to find a chemist to buy them though, which can be a problem when you are feeling ill. Our chemist in the village closes at lunchtime, which can cause a delay.

Luckily, the antibiotics kicked in straight away and I started to feel better within a few hours. Today, the pain is easing, the redness is less and the line has disappeared. I feel exhausted and “not quite right,” but that might be the antibiotics, as well as the infection.

So the reason I am sharing this today is to remind everyone, especially gardeners, to look out for the symptoms of sepsis, blood poisoning, septicaemia or any kind of infection, and don’t delay in seeking help. Even a simple thing such a splinter, a rose thorn or a tiny cut can be deadly. An insect bite can be equally dangerous.

And listen to your inner voice. If you think you should get urgent help, ring 111 for advice or go straight to the A and E. I was embarrassed to ring up about a splinter! I apologised several times. Also, I’ve been brought up to do as I’m told by people in authority. So when told I must wait for a telephone consultation – I nearly did just that. But having experience of sepsis – following an operation three years ago- I knew not to take chances and delay treatment.

The first signs to look out for are listed on the NHS website :

. High or low temperature

.Chills and shivering

.Uncontrollable shaking

.Fast or irregular heart beat

.Feeling or acting differently from normal- you do not seem your usual self

. A feeling that something just isn’t “quite right”

There are 250,000 cases of sepsis in the uk every year. 46,000 people die every year as a result of the infection – says the UK Sepsis Trust.

Remember, it’s never too trivial a matter to seek advice. An infection can follow from a dental appointment, a tiny cut, a graze, a thorn, a splinter, an illness of some kind, such as a kidney infection. A throat infection. It can follow an operation.

I previously thought only babies or elderly people suffered from sepsis. Before I got it three years ago, I had never heard of a normal healthy adult getting sepsis.

Anyway, after this week’s episode, I’m sure I’ll feel much better in a few days. The antibiotic course is for 7 days and the doctor stressed the importance of taking all of the tablets to the end of the course.

This evening, I’m well enough to walk slowly to the gap in the hedge. The crop is ripening. It will soon be harvest time.

Links : NHS Advice

They say – Seek help immediately if you think you have an infection of any kind.

I am really grateful to the NHS for the excellent 111 service and walk-in centre. Nurses deserve a medal for all they do.

I’m on twitter @kgimson

On instagram karengimson1

Please share this post on social media.

Update: I’ve had to change antibiotics twice due to a bad reaction.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not medically trained to give advice. This blog post is merely re-telling my experience and hopefully promoting discussion and further thought. I am amazed to see this post has been viewed 140,000 times. It’s obviously a subject that resonates with many readers.

  • The red rose is Louis XIV introduced in 1859. Very thorny. I shall be wearing gloves to prune it! I’ve included a photo because I was standing next to it, mesmerised by the blood red of the rose and the matching slowly creeping red line on my arm. I kept looking from one to the other deciding what to do. It never occurred to me pottering around doing a bit of gardening could lead to a medical emergency. Hopefully, now you will recognise the signs and get help quickly.

72 thoughts on “Infection – a Warning to Gardeners

  1. Pingback: Clip Glove – on trial | Bramble Garden

  2. Pingback: Incognito Insect Repellent- Review and Prize Draw | Bramble Garden

  3. Pingback: Infection – Update- 19th July 2019 #gardening | Bramble Garden

  4. Thank goodness you phoned 111 Karen. It pays to listen to our inner voice. I had a severe reaction after digging potatoes a long time ago. There was a small cut on my hand and within hours my hand was really swollen. It meant a trip to the hospital but I was treated in good time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An excellent warning, Karen. I have been far more aware since reading a writer in The Garden who suffered blood poisoning from a rose thorn, and your post does us all a good turn by remindind us of the symptoms of sepsis. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I hope that the infection is clearing Karen and that you are feeling stronger each day. It was so fortunate that you did not wait for that appointment. Your post contains some excellent advice. I have recently finished a course of flucloxicillin and am still taking diuretics and using an antibiotic cream after being bitten at the end of January. I dillied and dallied about seeking medical advice thinking that it would clear and by the time I phoned my surgery I then had a five week wait for an appointment. My leg is still sore and I have a follow up appointment this week. Although I can’t attribute my woes directly to gardening I’ve vowed not be so cavalier in the future and will be applying insect repellent and reminding myself to wear my gloves when I’m out in the garden or at the allotment. Take care xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. Can highly recommend the Incognito UK company. They have sent some samples. They are fantastic. Easy to use and they work. I’m determined not to get bitten this summer, and I’m taking no chances with thorns or splinters. I’ve been told I can’t have any more antibiotics incase I need them for pneumonia or something really serious. Have a good week x


  7. Thank you for your post, Karen. It’s a scary thought, and one I’m always conscious of (though not enough to wear gloves!) I’ve had several severe reactions to insect bites, more so in the garden than abroad, and have needed urgent antibiotic treatment. Never underestimate these seemingly minor things. They can turn serious ever so quickly. Thank you for listing and showing the warning signs, for us. So glad you’re on the mend now!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I’m trialing incognito insect sprays. So far so good. Will report back. Thanks for reading and for your kind comments. I’m finally on the mend. Has been a bit complicated one way or another.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I do hope you are feeling better now Karen. It sounds as if you were lucky to find the care centre so quick and effective, as I do hear terrible NHS tales… I usually wear gloves too. But thanks for the warning – that one time you don’t wear them and something horrible happens.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Cathy. Was so annoyed with myself. I was in a hurry. Will always wear them in future, and use insect repellents, judging by the number of comments about bites and stings on twitter. Thanks again x

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Frightening how quickly those little things can turn. I’m glad you’re on the mend and I shall promptly remove the splinter I noticed this afternoon. It was also a small one and I kept on forgetting it was there, but now I know better!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You didn’t have a splinter, you had an infection that was tracking up your arm, that is something which is urgent!!! GP surgeries seem on a mission to keep patients out, I can rant for hours on this subject. We can’t ring the surgery we have to email! If you think something is becoming infected marking the edge of the redness, with a pen, as you have is really helpful, as it can show how quickly the infection is spreading. The last time I called 111 was because of a reaction to anti-biotics! It might be an idea to give some feed back to the practice manager about what happened, I’m a lay person, but given your history and therefore knowledge it sounds like something that should have been fast tracked?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve had a reaction to antibiotics. Luckily I got another telephone consultation and a new prescription. My neighbour fetched them because I couldn’t drive, so dizzy and sick. My GP surgery is usually fab. But there’s nothing they can do if there are no appointments. Luckily there’s the 111 service which is excellent. The pen idea is brilliant. The infection continued for another 3” then stopped. The photo was taken a few hours after antibiotics. I was in too much of a panic before. Thanks for reading and getting in touch.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on hermionelaake and commented:
    Wow. I had this and my mum saved my life! I was in holiday with this in my leg, exactly the same. It was Sunday and I was about to board a plane. She told me to put it in hot water. I asked the barman for some hot water and a bowl.. He didn’t argue. I put my foot in hot water with a blister. It was agony. But the infection stopped. The red line started to recede. It was in my leg.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Karen thank goodness you realized that something was not right and you were sick and went to the emergency room and sent you antibiotics that are healing you. Take them all. And always wear gloves. I have also been silent because I have been sick with bronchitis, which has complicated my lung with pneumonia. At home with fever taking antibiotics and syrup and without getting out of bed because of the great weakness. To top it off I was joined by the heat wave we have endured in Spain, arriving in Madrid at 42ºC and at night at 25ºC. I took the computer one day to comment on a blog by Cathy and it felt really bad for me to get up. I’ve already been getting up from bed in the afternoon three days and I wanted to say hello. I received the post receipt to go pick up the gardening gloves. But the Post Office catches me very far and neither of my parents can walk. Next week I will take the car and I will be accompanied by my mother for them. Karen with all my heart I hope that you regain completely and there are no sequels. Karen love, health, strength and happiness for your whole family and for you. Take care a lot and rest. Affectionate caresses for Meg and Grace. Be good my dear friend. Very loving greetings from Margarita.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no, poor you. We are both on antibiotics! Don’t they make you feel truly awful? But we have to take them, so I’m not really complaining. The first ones caused a bad reaction. I’m getting on better with the new ones, and I’m up out of bed too. Couldn’t move with exhaustion. I hope you make a swift recovery. I’ve had pneumonia and it is very painful and debilitating. Loving greetings to you and your family in return xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s true, poor of us taking antibiotics at the same time! And the first ones made you react, what a bad Karen. It’s a good thing that the antibiotics you take now feel good and are healing you: that they do it soon and you recover quickly my dear friend. I have been in bed with a very high fever for 8 days of almost 39.5ºC: they wanted to admit me to the Hospital but I refused. Then under the fever and that’s when I ran out of strength. I have a long convalescence ahead. But I’ll be fine if you get well. Love and good health for your whole family and for you, Karen. Take care. Very loving greetings from Margarita.


  13. Goodness just a small thing like a splinter. My son (39) contracted Sepsis last year on holiday in Majorca from a sore throat which he had a day before we travelled which turned into a throat infection, he steadily went downhill unable to eat, drink or even stand up unsupported, we knew this was more than a throat infection and he went to hospital they kept him in overnight and when we went back in the morning he was in intensive care with Sepsis and kidney failure! Thankfully they diagnosed him immediately and gave him the treatment he needed, wonderful hospital he has made a full recovery with no lasting problems.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh dear. So sorry to hear that Sylvia. Speed is certainly of the essence. Who would imagine a sore throat could cause that. I’m glad he has made a full recovery. However, be watchful, as I believe sepsis lurks and waits to catch you out, like this time with my injury. Thanks for reading and getting in touch


  14. So sorry to hear about your infection, Karen and what a good job you reacted quickly. I hope you’ll soon be back firing on all cylinders. Thank you for alerting us to the potential dangers of splinters and other small woulds. I’ve always been wary of splinters since I was a small child and one of our neighbours lost his thumb to a splinter infection.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m so glad you acted quickly and are beginning to feel better. One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging lately is that I was bitten by an infected tick while I was is Puglia. I didn’t see it immediately but as soon as it was removed I started taking antibiotics (you have too by law here), but an infection took hold. I ended up on multiple antibiotics including some by injection. I’m still not 100%, but much better than I was.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh no, so sorry to hear that Christina. My great aunt had the same thing. Luckily her GP was prompt and said it was Lyme disease. Lots of antibiotics and she hasn’t had a problem since. Do hope you feel much better soon. Sending a hug and lots of love xx

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mike. It is surprising isn’t it. I must have had hundreds of splinters and thorns over the years,and always got away with it. The dr described it as an opportunistic bug. Hope you are getting to your plot and all’s well. Karen x

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Derrick. Must admit it shook me up a bit. Can’t say how poorly it made me feel. I just couldn’t think straight. Weird. Thank goodness for antibiotics and caring hard-working nurses. The. NHS is wonderful

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I am so glad you’re okay! What a good deed you have done with this post–raising awareness! I have picked at least a half dozen splinters out this season–good to know what to look for if things turn troublesome. My sister-in-law was in the hospital for sepsis years ago, she was in her early 40s and got it from a rose thorn (in her horticulture work). She had two small children at home and it could have been fatal. I appreciated what you wrote about authority figures and the reluctance to take action. Thank you for an honest and very important post; you just might have saved a life, or two, or more, with it. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I do hope so. My grandmother and Mum’s generation would always say , don’t “bother” the doctor for minor matters. They would be virtually at deaths door before seeking help. I grew up hearing that phrase. Their trust in and reverence for people in authority passed subconsciously to me. Hopefully we have overcome the embarrassment and feeling that we might be a nuisance. I always say it doesn’t cost anything to ask a question. My grandmother never took any tablets and only “bothered” the doctor/ hospital twice in her life.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Oops pressed post, early. It is good to highlight your experience for others to learn by. The whole experience does knock you back.

    I have had problems with flucloxicillin, which are always the first on offer for sepsis etc. There are others, which can be used, as you found out.

    Now time to pace yourself. Another week or two and you may be bouncing around like a teenager again! X

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Looking at the tracking up your arm, you judged it right, urgent action was needed. I am pleased to hear you feel more like you.

    I take probiotics to keep up the level of good gut flora as and when I have antibiotic treatment. I find it works well at restoring the flora and a feeling of well-being.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I hope your improvement continues Karen, and thanks for sharing this. It’s a reminder to all of us, and I shall share this on my facebook page, as I have several gardening friends who like you and I are apt to continue on regardless. I shall also buy myself some new gardening gloves, as I feel my old ones may be full of pathogens.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Noelle. I might have been one of those carry on regardless people, in the past. Thanks for sharing. Also, I’m going to wear gloves- for everything! All the best. Karen

      Liked by 1 person

  20. J & D > We are really glad that you are okay, because we know very well from our own experience that anyone engaged in manual work in the natural environment is highly vulnerable to scratches cuts and wounds all of which have the potential to turn nasty. That’s why we wear industrial gloves as much as possible – though getting the right balance between protection and sensitivity is difficult, and we have different grades of gloves for different tasks. Well worth the investment.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I nearly always wear gloves when handling compost. I’m really fussy about them. Just didn’t think sweeping the potting shed would be dangerous. That’s it, now I’ll wear them for everything. I’m going to get some more industrial ones, like you suggest. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Goodness, how simple and how dangerous. You did well to react so properly and promptly when you realised all was not as it should be. Thorns and scratches are part of gardening and we usually pay little attention to them but it is well to be informed and aware of the dangers. Speedy recovery and happy gardening – with gloves!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much. I must say, I’ve had no end of scratches and thorns over the years and never thought anything of it. This time, it just developed -and so quickly too. I don’t usually write about myself, only about the garden. But I thought, if one person reads this and gets help quickly, it will be worth it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Paddy. I must admit, i always wear gloves for handling compost and pruning. Just didn’t think I needed them for sweeping the potting shed. Goodness knows what germs were on that broom handle. It was such a teeny tiny splinter.

      Liked by 2 people

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