Infected cuts and bites from gardening


On Tuesday, during a photoshoot for Gardeners’ World magazine, something in our garden bit me, but it was a nothing bite, tiny and I forgot about it. Later in the week, I was down in London to meet my literary agent and I noticed the bite felt itchy on the Thursday evening. I hadn’t slept much the night before due to a house alarm going off all night and I’ve been a bit stressed recently, which meant I was probably more run down than usual. By Friday morning I noticed the bite had inflamed a fair amount, I had my meeting and then afterwards, things began to go downhill very rapidly.

By lunchtime the bite was about the size of a shirt button and the speed at which it had swollen made it extremely painful. After the long train journey home to Yorkshire in the evening, my finger was sore, swollen and I couldn’t bend it. Next morning, the bite was raised and swollen to a pound coin size, looking pretty gross. This was concerning but the more concerning thing was redness and inflammation spreading through my hand. If you spot this, you have to act fast.

Redness, soreness, pain and swelling spreading out from a scratch, bite or splinter is a sign of infection potentially entering your blood stream. This can lead to blood poisoning and sepsis, which are serious medical conditions that can damage your body or lead to death. And it can happen quickly.

Luckily, as a professional gardener I was all too aware of the risk of this happening from people I know who’ve experienced it – it would be all to easy to ‘see how it goes’ but don’t do this! If a bite, cut or splinter is infected it’s important to have it seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Usually it will need antibiotics, and if not caught soon enough, stronger doses of antibiotics and a hospital stay.

I was worried because of the speed of infection in my hand. In less than 24hrs the bite had gone from nothing to what you see above. If you have this symptom and/or are feeling unwell, treat it seriously and get to A&E, your local doctor surgery or a walk in emergency clinic.

We found that we don’t have an emergency clinic near us, our GP practice is closed on weekends and phoning 111 to speak to a doctor over the phone wasn’t possible because they were too busy (and unfortunately on the phone gave me wrong advice, not treating it seriously enough but I knew it was serious). We were going to travel an hour to a walk in centre in Wakefield because although my hand was bad, I didn’t think it was ‘that’ bad, yet.

In the end, because we were going past Halifax hospital 30 minutes from us, we thought we’d go in and thank goodness we did. The staff in Halifax A&E were brilliant, we were seen by a nurse quickly and referred to a doctor who then opened the infected wound to clean it, gave me antibiotics and instructions to rest with my arm in the air. Our friend who is a consultant too suggested putting my arm in a sling to help raise it, which Chris fashioned out of an old bed sheet.

We drew a line in marker pen on my hand around the swelling to keep an eye on the infection to see if it spreads further. If it does get worse or I feel ill, I have to go back in as this is a sign the infection has got worse. But hopefully I caught it soon enough and the antibiotics can do their thing.

Anyway, lesson learned not to feel embarrassed going to A&E with something that feels small. Thank you to everyone who advised us to go to A&E and for your good wishes, to the wonderful NHS staff, and Chris for looking after me. I didn’t get a chance to respond to the messages on social media individually because I was driving and in hospital, but I appreciated it very much.

I’m not out of the woods just yet, my hand is still swollen and I feel a bit out of sorts, but I’ve been resting all day and this evening… partly why I’m writing this because I’m bored lol though I feel I owe everyone an update too. I’ll let you know when the swelling goes down as the antibiotics kick in over the next day or so.

Here’s evidence I am still partially operational if feeling a bit panicked and silly about the whole thing:

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