Sand burr, an unwelcome intruder in lawns and beaches throughout the Southern United States, is an annual grass that reproduces by burrs, or stickers. The burrs attach themselves to shoelaces, clothing, pet fur and even tires, and feature 1/4-inch spines that are sharp enough to penetrate skin. Although painful, the minor cuts that result from sand burrs sticking to your skin are usually not serious. However, stepping on a burr with bare feet can cause a puncture wound that should be seen by a doctor. Skin irritation from minor sand burr injuries can usually be treated with self care.
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Common sand burr, botanically known as Cenchrus incertus and also called burr grass, sandspur and sandbur, is found primarily in dry, disturbed and sandy soils. The blades are an attractive light-green color, and the plant can be mistaken for turf grass until it begins featuring the burrs, which are 1/8 of an inch long and contain several seeds apiece. Although sand burr is normally an annual grass that dies with the first frost, in locations with very mild winters, it can act as a perennial, plaguing homeowners, landscapers and beachgoers year round. Because sand burr doesn't compete well with other plants, having a healthy, well-fertilized lawn is your first line of defense. Colorado Gardening reports that you can use a pre-emergence herbicide containing pendimethalin to prevent sand burr germination. Established sand burrs can be controlled with glyphosate, but this herbicide also kills desirable plants and must be carefully applied.
First Aid for Sand Burr Injuries
Treat small cuts and incisions from sand burrs by washing them with soap and water. Desert Exposure advises using a sterilized tweezers and running water to remove any spines or bits of organic debris that might have been left behind in your skin. Cover the area with an antibiotic ointment and place a bandage over it to keep out bacteria. Apply a fresh bandage daily and watch the wound for signs of infection, including redness, warmth, drainage, pain or swelling. Consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Soothing Skin Irritation from Sand Burrs
Even when sand burr spines don't cause cuts, contact with them can leave skin scratched, irritated, tender, and itchy. If you have been exposed to a number of sand burrs, a soothing oatmeal bath can help relieve irritation. Dr. Howard Donsky, a staff dermatologist at Toronto General Hospital in Toronto, advises adding two cups of powdered, uncooked oatmeal to a lukewarm bath. The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies reports that it is also safe to use a topical over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream in a formulation of one-half percent. University of Maryland Medical Center says a cream or ointment made from menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint, can be applied to irritated skin up to four times a day. If you experience a rash, discontinue use.
Puncture Wounds from Sand Burrs
To treat a small puncture wound from a sand burr, Mayoclinic.com advises first applying gentle pressure with a clean cloth to stop any bleeding. Generally, puncture wounds don't bleed heavily. Rinse the wound with clear water and use sterilized tweezers to remove particles. Follow with antibacterial ointment and a bandage and watch for signs of infection. If spikelets or bits of the burr remain in a puncture wound, see your doctor. MayoClinic.com cautions that you should also see your doctor for evaluation and treatment If the puncture wound is in your foot. If the puncture wound is deep and you have not had a tetanus shot in the past five years, your doctor might recommend a booster shot.