Ouch! How To Get Cactus Needles Out of Your Skin

If you’re heading to the desert any time soon, there is one question you may want to know the answer to: How to get cactus needles out of the skin?

There is nothing quite like the glorious desert, especially Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. The sunsets are breathtaking, the night sky is spectacular, and the tall saguaros (the tall cacti with long arms) lining our highways are entrancing. But what you need to watch out for are the little and mid-sized cacti; these sure can inflict some discomfort.

Here a few tips regarding some of the types of cacti you will see in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, and an answer to the question above. After all, it doesn’t take much to end up with a patch of cactus spines, or needles, stuck in your skin.

Ouch! How To Get Cactus Needles Out of Your Skin

Cactus Needles

There are several species of “Jumping Cactus” and these succulents are one variety you really need to watch out for. While they don’t actually jump out and attack you, they do attach to your skin easily. Just brushing by them is enough to get them to latch on.

Prickly pears are another type to avoid. Surrounding the large thorns protruding out of the cactus are glochids — tiny, hair-like barbed spines that appear to be fuzzy and soft, making kids naturally fascinated.

When stepped on or handled, hundreds of the tiny cactus spines and glochids can get lodged in the skin (been there with my son). This is one of the many reasons to never walk barefoot in the desert and always check the ground before letting your husband slide under the engine of your SUV.

The Trick! How To Get Cactus Needles Out

If you end up with one or two lodged in the skin, it’s easy to remove the cactus needles with a pair of tweezers. But what if you become one of the unfortunate and end up with a hand, foot, or butt (yes, it happens!) full of needles? What is the removal process like if you need to remove cactus spines and needles from yourself, or a friend or family member?

A great way to remove the needles? Spread a thin layer of glue (Elmer’s Glue works fine) over the affected area.

Let the glue sit for a while — about 30 minutes — then when it is completely dry, peel the glue off. The needles stuck in your skin will rise and be removed with the glue. You may need to repeat the process a couple of times to get them all out.

Another option that I have not personally tried, but that gets rave reviews, is to use duct tape (should you be out of glue). This sounds painful though, as you’ll need to press down in order to capture the needles.

Either way, be sure to wash the area well with antibacterial soap after you remove the spines. You don’t want the wound to become infected.

You might have a more difficult time if a part of the needle does not protrude above the skin. If it’s not causing you pain, you may consider leaving the cactus needles in your skin for a few days. The body has a way of working the needles to the top, making them easier to capture.

A magnifying glass can also be helpful to help you see the tiny ones.

If you encounter a severe fall and end up covered in needles, don’t hesitate to call a doctor.

Cactus Needles FAQ

What is the best way to draw out cactus needles?

The best way to draw out cactus needles is to spread Elmer’s Glue over the affected area, let it dry completely, and then peel back the dried glue, which should take the needles out along with it.

Will cactus needles come out on their own?

Usually, cactus needles will eventually come out on their own. If after trying to get out large cactus needles with tweezers, and smaller ones with the glue method, you still have small needles in your skin — they will usually move their way to the skin’s surface in a couple of days.

Are cactus needles poisonous?

Cactus needles themselves are not poisonous. You don’t want to leave them inside your skin for long though, because they could invite other infections. If you can’t remove them yourself, it’s best to head to the doctor.


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