Ridge Runner Chronicles – March 22, 2023
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Momma Knew Best or Did She?
By Bill Hoagland
In today’s world, it seems that every hospital has a separate facility, off campus, where you can receive immediate care for minor injuries. These places are usually referred to as “convenient care” or “urgent care” facilities. They are certainly convenient and for the young “whipper-snappers” out there—those of you under 40 years of age—you are lucky, lucky, lucky. That’s because “back in the day,” before the existence of urgent care facilities, when we kids had a minor injury from falling on the gravel driveway for example, we weren’t taken to the hospital emergency room. No, our treatment was rendered from the family medicine cabinet above the bathroom sink.
And inside that medicine cabinet lurked two evil twins: iodine and mercurochrome. Both of these remedies were perceived as cure-all antiseptics, especially for minor open wounds, because they both contained alcohol. They both possessed a bright red or orange color when applied and they both burned when applied to an open wound. And despite our protests, Momma would paint that stuff onto our open sores because it was ultimately “good for us.” In fact, some of us were told that it burned because the medicine was “attacking the germs.” Momma knew best, right?
You can still buy iodine; Annie in fact uses it on her horses but the other evil twin, mercurochrome, has been banned in the US by the FDA since 1998. The brand name—mercurochrome—refers to the fact that this product contains mercury and is colorful, hence the name mercurochrome. The actual name for this product is “merbromin” which basically means it contains both mercury and bromine. Mercury is a liquid metal coming from the bowels of the earth that if introduced into the human circulatory system via an open wound, can be seriously harmful to the kidneys, brain and the central nervous system. Bromine is also an element that can be harmful to humans, sometimes even fatal. But even if mercury and bromine had not been ingredients in mercurochrome, this medicine in its original form was not an appropriate medicine to apply to an open sore anyway because the alcohol in the product actually retards the healing process. So really, both iodine and mercurochrome should not have been applied to open wounds. The most surprising thing about this is that both iodine and mercurochrome were used for years even though, as far as I can tell, there had never been a scientifically based study to determine if these medicines were truly effective. Everybody just assumed.
But we really can’t fault Momma here, can we? Her heart was in the right place.
■ Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.