Baking Soda Burns! Beware

You know sometimes you read about something on the internet and it just sounds so good you can’t wait to try it?

Back in August I got excited about the wonderful superpowers of Baking Soda. Goofy, I know. The Great Wall of China, one of the eight wonders of the world is just 800 miles away from my front door but I’m entranced by white powder in a can.

A Miracle in a Can

I knew a litte about it, as most people do, but I hadn’t realised that it could literally do everything around the house apart from cook the dinner and babysit the kids. It’s a natural, bio-degradable substance. Living in China, any way to reduce air pollution is always a good thing, and living in the tropics, anything to dissaude the bugs from co-habiting; namely, mosquitos, bugs and cockroaches, whilst reducing the likelihood of ingesting possibly carcinogenic bug spray is a bonus.

So, I got some and set to work. I cleaned, shined, sparkled, refreshed my environment and then even used some as part of a hair wash and body scrub. It was a rewarding day and I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Or Maybe Not

However (there had to be a however, right?), just a few days later I noticed that the skin on my fingertips was peeling pretty badly. Severely actually. Painfully and unrelentingly. My nail beds were pushed upwards and backwards and my fingertips turned almost black.

My wonder product had given me a devasting chemical burn on all of my fingers and both of my thumbs. Despite the fact that Baking Soda is in fact a chemical  – Sodium Bicarbonate, none of the advice I’d read on the web about using it had mentioned wearing gloves and protection hadn’t occured to me, because I’d read reports of people using it on their hair and skin! I also suffered minor scarring on my neck and upper chest.

Plastic Gloves

Unsurprisingly I’ve more or less stopped using it altogether, unless heavily diluted or to clean the loo whilst clad in FBI grade Kevlar protective clothing from head to foot, you know in case of splashes.

So How’s It Looking Now?

It’s now four months later and my fingers are just beginning to show improvement. My fingernail beds are finally beginning to lie flat, although there is still burnt skin on my fingertips which I have to keep continually  moist for it to basically drop off. My fingertips are almost pink again which is nice to see.

Trying to Find a Solution

I spent the weeks immediately after the burn seeking solutions from different pharmacies which are pretty good in China, apart from the one who gave me a lotion which turned my fingers green, bearing in mind that they were already almost black from the injury, so my hands weren’t a pretty sight. I spent most of my time on public transport with my arms folded and hands beneath my armpits trying to look nonchalant, like this was a normal way to travel. Despite some communication difficulties the pharmacists medics could see that I was uncomfortable and did their best to help.

Eventually I gave up on the pharmacies, realising that my skin was getting drier and drier and my fingers no better. The kind, English speaking doctor from Hong Kong, confirmed my self diagnosis and said that the pharmacy cream contained steroids and other chemicals which though may have helped a little, obviously hadn’t been enoughand were potentailly harmful.

Finally  a Cure!

He prescribed Aqueous cream to be applied several times a day as well as a daily soaking in clear warm water and wearing plastic gloves as often as possible to keep them moist and speed the recovery. Did you know it’s possible to type whilst wearing plastic gloves. I also teach in them, cook and use chopsticks. Check me out with my bad self!

He cautioned that even with all of this it could  still take another three to four months before the fingernails I used to adorn with pretty polish and the fingertips which used to look rosy and healthy will return.

So, that’s 8 months of ruined fingers for one day of working with what I thought was the best thing since sliced bread, Baking Soda.

Aqueous Cream AvaMingImages


Last Words

The best thing about this is discovering Aqueous cream. I have no idea if it’s available commercially but I love it. It’s making my dried out skin soft and pliable again. It smells like something you’d use on a baby after its bath and it sinks into your skin without much prompting or persuasion. I just wish I had enough for my whole body and not just my fingers.

Pay heed to my tale and don’t let such an innocuous looking product like Baking Soda do this to you. It’s really not nice.



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