Monday, April 20, 2009

Mercurochrome and Merthiolate



This beautiful lane is on the right as you drive down to Freeport, in a neighboring county. OMG she mentioned Freeport without talking about her ancestor jumping straight off the boat from Germany! It's a miracle. Lanes like these beckon me to drive down them and discover what lies at the end. Urges like these are the reason that some day curiosity will kill this cat, or at least land her in jail. I'd just like to make it known that I mean no harm, I am just trying to be nosy share our local beauty with the world.

Once upon a time children rode their bike for hours on end, especially if they lived in the Chesapeake Bay household.

In case I've not mentioned it before, there was nothing to do around here and most of your fun had to be invented. The bicycle provided much-needed activity and an even more-needed escape from reality home. Because I was insanely slightly competitive, I often enjoyed racing up and down our paved lane on my one-speed bike--no hand brakes, no gear shifts, no helmet or elbow pads. Just the sincere desire to go fast enough to take flight.

On occasion, I did take flight, but not in the way intended. This was the dreaded fall caused by inattention, excessive speeds, a stray stick or rock, or just plain bad luck.

(Speaking of bad luck, more than once--in fact as many as four separate times--I was hit in the face/eye with a rock propelled from a neighbor's lawn mower as I rode my bike by their house and they were cutting grass. What do you think the odds are of that happening more than once? Why can't I have this sort of luck with the Virginia lottery?)

Falling off a speeding bicycle onto pavement was the worst. Knees and elbows caught the brunt of the beating; blood was everywhere and the pain was excruciating. This pain, however, was a mere warm-up for tolerating the Mother-Applied Punishment Remedy of Choice: the evil Mercurochrome or Merthiolate.

(I'd like to press pause for just a sec and let you know there are many variations of spelling for these two tinctures of battery acid, but the spelling above appears to be closest to correct. We always pronounced it "methyalade" not -ate but people around here also say "nare" instead of "nary" or "chimbley" instead of "chimney" so we were definitely not the experts in the arena of pronunciation.)

Merthiolate and Mercurochrome came in tiny brown bottles with a glass dropper which served as a hot poker to apply the battery acid to the wound. This tincture of hellfire was supposed to prevent infection, and as I recall it did that by burning away every possible shred of skin, hair, flesh and bone that it came into contact with. There was no sting like Mercurochrome applied to an open wound. Except for Merthiolate.

Mercifully, Mercurochrome was banned in the U.S. due to the presence of mercury and the howls of innocent children being tortured. I'm not sure what happened to its twin, Merthiolate, although I think it suffered a similar fate.

Or perhaps it went back home to Hades where it was born.

29 comments:

Karen Deborah said...

I remember them well, Mercurochrome didn't hurt but they were both the same color so you never knew which it would be, the bee stings or just pink coloring. It's funny but I was just thinking about these remedies the other day too.

Grandma J said...

I wondered what the heck happened to Mercurochrome. I never felt a sting, and I loved applying to my own wounds as a child because it made them look worse than they were and very "official".

Uusually the wound was healed and gone before the visual of the Mercurochrome.

Grandma J said...

OH, I forgot to comment on your unpaved lane. I have taken up your love of excitment and wandered down an unpaved road to get a better look at some cows. These cows are in a pasture along a two lane FM route where the speed limit is 60 mph. I dare not pull off on the shoulder because it's one of those streets with a lot of memorial crosses with flowers. I envision someone plowing into me while I'm taking pictures. Anyway, I decided to take the unpaved side road, hoping to end up on the other side of this pasture and in a safer place to take pictures....but no! This unpaved road led me to a place that made me think of Deliverence. The movie. I had to back half the way out because the road narrowed into a swampy looking area. Please pass the Mercurochrome.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

I'm sure I could be wrong, but I remember them both hurting like the devil. But the sorts of injuries I had, even water would have stung.

Speaking of hurting, I'm off to work now. Have a great Monday.

Golden To Silver Val said...

Boy you sure did trigger some memories. That two-track lane...around my parts we used to call those "lovers lane". They were regularly patrolled by the police looking for kids who were drinking or partying. Of course I have no first hand knowledge of this....its just what I heard through neighborhood gossip.

Mental P Mama said...

I hated that orange poison. My poor mother would practically hyperventilate as she was required to begin the blowing process before the first drop hit the open wound! Ahhh the memories. And I don't think I tried to stand up in the go cart more than three times. I was a quick study;)

Annie said...

Aha..well, we used to have something called acriflavine, in Australia. It was bright yellow. Probably did the same trick. Glad you don't feel the need to drive the car at that speed now....all that mercurochrome must have zapped the need to belt down those lanes at top speed!

Had two gorgeous warm days in Washington, now it is back to the rain and cold in NY.

Hope you had a good day at the paying job.

big hair envy said...

You would not BELIEVE how hard I laughed when I read the title of your post!!!! I have a scar that still burns when I hear the word "methylate"!!! The only GOOD thing was that it was a cool shade of hot pink. There is a bottle of that stuff still sitting in my grandmother's cabinet....I believe it was purchased in 1962. Hell fire hath no shelf-life.

well read hostess said...

Is that the stuff that turned your skin red? Our nurse (Ratchet) at elementary school used to use it! My mom was a nurse, so unless we were spurting blood from the carotid artery, she always said, "eh, wash it and walk it off" about any other injury.

Caution Flag said...

You got hit more than once? There's probably some lesson to be learned there, but it's beyond me. My mom used Bactine which mingled with the blood and ran all over our legs, but it didn't sting.

Daryl said...

I always opted for merurochrome vs the nastier iodine ... and wait til we compare scarred knees ....

Autumnforest said...

Wow, what memories... I tried to explain to my son the stuff we rubbed on our cuts as a kid and the bottle with the stopper. He thought it sounded like old-world pharmacy. Remember paragoric for cramps? (opiate!), castor oil? Mustard plasts? Yikes! I think I'd rather have a shaman pray.

foolery said...

Bactine was pretty much IT in our house.

My mother literally fainted at the site of blood in her college years, and told us this. For that reason we spared her -- and ourselves -- that added trauma, and just avoided bloody situations. Worked pretty well, too. My scars are mostly psychological.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

KD-I still think both of them stung, but am willing to concede because I've been known to be wrong occasionally..as in most of the time.

GJ-You need to write about this Deliverance scene....seriously.

Val - You probably just heard about all that from your friends the same way I did. We had submarine races--or I should say THEY had submarine races and parties at the beach, etc. Sounded like fun....

MPM-Your poor mother. I had completely forgotten about all the blowing to cool it off. Hated that stuff.

Annie - Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay. How long do we have the pleasure of having you in our time zone? Is your sister still here? (Here = Virginia)

BHE - You could probably sell that bottle on e-bay...you'd be surprised what people collect. You liked the color- I couldn't stand it. It stunk too if I recall, although I may be confusing that with Betadine (I think that's what it was called).

Well Read - YES, it was the red/pink stuff that stung like the devil. Lucky you for having a mother who didn't insist on torturing you with the stuff.

CAution Flag - I didn't know that Bactine existed until I was much older. I am starting to think my mother was dead set on hurting us, but perhaps I'm wrong....BActine is great, no sting, does the trick. My kids love it. (I don't torture them, at least not with medicine.)

Daryl - can't wait to compare the scars.

Autumn - A shaman is much preferred.

Foolery - I see your psychological scars and raise you one case of self-diagnosed ADD, adult-onset, that I will blame now on lack of Bactine in the household. It was all that mercury!

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

Huh, never occurred to me that we were applying MERCURY to our wounds! I think the school nurse even used it!

My mama always warned me never to go within SIX MILES of the exit-side of a lawn mower. Someone she knew had been hit by a thrown stone one time and THAT'S ALL IT TOOK, YOU COULD DIE THAT WAY, FORGAWDSAKE!

Breezeway said...

OK... I know I'm really late replying to this, but I couldn't resist. Are we related? Because the scars on my poor arms and legs tell a scary tale of how horribly uncoordinated I am. And nearly every one of them has a equally horrible memory associated with it of "RED MEDICINE!" which is what we called it. My father took great joy in telling us that it didn't burn.

Anonymous said...

I like how we were told to "blow on it" while applying, it would take away the pain. The mouth bacteria probably did wonders!

Anonymous said...

I don't remember methylaide hurting, I remember I was proud to put it on myself. Tobacco and spit for bee stings was much more memorable.

Grandma K said...

I definitely remember both mercurochrome and merthiolate, but I also remember that one of them stung like crazy and the other one didn't. The stinging one was all we had for cuts for a long time until my Dad bought the non-stinging one. Never could tell one from the other until it hit the wound. They both left a pink stain on the skin and I remember wincing before either of them was applied. Shoot. I don't even use antiperspirants today that have mercury compounds in them. Almost all do.

pinaki28 said...

Mercurochrome made up with alcohol(tincture) stings pretty bad , alongwith tincture-of-iodine and benzene (worst longest stinggg) which were all popular GP antiseptics of my childhood (i'm 38 now). We always use Mercurochrome made with water ( 2% and 4% solutions )at my home ,which is infact soothing , yes it is available
cheaply OTC here in India even today, and plainly much much better than betadine/neosporin for wounds burns and skin infections etc . We regularly use the 2% for oral/dental use too .. safely .I'm certain someone :-) paid the FDA to ban it in USA , and trying that FUD hard everywhere else too now .
Pinaki .

Anonymous said...

I recall the color of Mercurochrome as being fire-engine red with an orange-gold-green iridescent cast to it. (I'm a 55-year old painter now--go figure!) And indeed, back in the day it was universally known and feared as "the Red Medicine", applied with a glass rod built into the bottle cap, worn as a badge of courage by wounded kids and "blown on" by kind moms everywhere. I yearned for a kinder mom, but mine made us blow on our own wounds. (Was there some kind of finishing school or ladies' magazine where future moms learned all this stuff?) Of course, any mercury exposure was insignificant compared to what those "dumb" kids got, who rode their bikes behind the mosquito-spray truck (DDT?), and I mean right in the thick of the spray. I don't know, common sense told us doing that was just not a good idea. (BTW, this was in Portsmouth VA in the sixties.)

Did anyone have peroxide poured into their wounds? My dad did it, probably because my mom couldn't hold me down! That was a case of "the operation was a success, but the patient practically died." I was never lucky enough to get paregoric, but that would have been a good time to have it.

Anonymous said...

Both those remedies were spawned by
Satan himself.It was amazing how fast
you would heal when Dad would come outside after I crashed and burned on
my banana bike after riding a great
wheelie on the main road outside our
home and got road rash the size of
Texas on everything...it was a cure-
all for him...after one dose you did
not tell him ever again...

Victoria said...

I kept both including iodine and now as a nurse I wish it was wtill available. We didn't have all this MRSA and crap going around. A dab of either didn't harm us as much as what's going around now! FDA has interferred so much in trying to keep us safe that it has opened another door to help worse things. Now the Drug companies make millions on the antibotics to kill the germs they more or less allowed to develope. Instead of 1.49 to prevent infections!!

Cali said...

I still have a tiny bottle of Merthiolate in my medicine cabinet & I use it on little boo-boos. I don't have children so I'm only exposing myself to mercury. This stuff does sting but it works. I swear it takes the soreness out of a tiny cut or scrape like nothing else!

Anonymous said...

Had a little chat with my chiropractor the other day and he said tincture of merthiolate had iodine in it and if you spread a little smear of it on your belly (after your shower) and the color was absorbed by your skin by 24 hours later, that meant that your body was deplete of iodine. Our thyroids require it and most doctors nowadays miss testing us for it.
That nasty burning sensation we would get from the merthiolate was caused by the alcohol in it!

Anonymous said...

Had a little chat with my chiropractor the other day and he said tincture of merthiolate had iodine in it and if you spread a little smear of it on your belly (after your shower) and the color was absorbed by your skin by 24 hours later, that meant that your body was deplete of iodine. Our thyroids require it and most doctors nowadays miss testing us for it.
That nasty burning sensation we would get from the merthiolate was caused by the alcohol in it!

ravensterra said...

omg!!! id scream bloody murder when whoever put merthiolate on me. if i could id insist on the mercurochrome, didnt burn. as a 10 yr old, i fell on a barb wired fence ripping my knee open 3". it took all of my mothers brothers, my grandfather, and other uncles to hold me down when my dad POURED, yes i said, POURED, that d**m stuff on me. when they got me to the hospital, the doctor who stitched up my knee said, 'he could have killed her'.

beacuse of that, merthiolate was never used on me again...

Anonymous said...

Mercurochrome didn't hurt, but the Merthiolate burned when applied. Mama used the Merthiolate on us. It worked, but boy did it sting. All for our good though. I would love to have some in the medicine cabinet today!!

Catherine said...

I agree Mertholate burned... my aunt used Merchurochrom but my mom always said Mertholate was the "REAL" stuff, lol. And I used it on my kids too :( but it worked so well! took the soreness right out. but I used the blow dryer on cool for my kids. However the best story I have is when my 2yr had a small cut he hadn't told me about, got up in the middle of the night and put Mertholate on it. he also managed to spill what was left all over my synthetic white marble sink... but wait there is more... it was a greasy mess, lol. Not knowing who did what until I got everyone up... I soon discovered the tell tale red on my son's foot. "so you are the one who spilled the Mertholate! He rolled over and looked up at me and said "but I keen it all up" LOL he had used Skin so Soft to clean it up explaining the oily pink mess all over the sink....LOL that was 24 years ago. But you have to appreciate a 2yo who knows the value of Mertholate, sting and all.