Monday, February 26, 2007

Why do paper cuts hurt so much?

Who's asking: Richard Brewer, Los Angeles, CA

I've broken a couple of bones, given birth to a couple of kids, ruptured a disc, had all four wisdom teeth extracted at once and concussed myself at least twice -- and the memory of none of those things makes me shudder as much as the thought of a paper cut.

Paper cuts hurt for a couple of reasons. First, we tend to get paper cuts in places where we have concentrations of nerve endings -- our hands and our tongues. (I stopped licking envelopes even before that "Seinfeld" episode.) Second, and perhaps counter-intuitively, paper cuts hurt more because they don't really bleed. They're usually not deep enough to bleed, which means they're not deep enough to scab. Because they don't scab, they remain open to the air while the skin heals itself from underneath, and every time the air hits the nerve, you feel pain again. To add insult to injury, if you get a paper cut on a knuckle, it can open itself up again every time the knuckle bends.

It may seem like a wimpy thing to do, but you can reduce the pain from paper cuts a lot by keeping Band-Aids on them until they heal. This is one reason I go through about a box of Band-Aids a month (and yes, have to restrain myself from buying the cartoon ones).

While I was in Freeport and Portland yesterday, Hallowell's legendary Slates Restaurant suffered a major fire. Thank God no one was hurt, but this is a terrible blow for Hallowell and for all of us who live within striking distance of Slates. I hope and expect there will be some kind of fundraiser to help the owners rebuild and the tenants relocate; when I hear any more, I'll post details and updates here.

This just in: St. Matthew's Church in Hallowell is organizing a relief effort for the tenants of the apartments above Slates and the 60+ employees who will be out of work for an indefinite period. Cash is what's needed; send donations to St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 20 Union St., Hallowell, ME 04347, Attn: The Rev. Calvin Sanborn. Please make your check out to St. Matthew's and include "Emergency Fire Fund" on the memo line.


Anonymous said...

Also, paper cuts hurt more than deeper and more serious injuries because they are such a clean cut, with no jagged edges for the open skin to connect to (like a puzzle), therefore easily opening.

Anonymous said...

Black Pepper on a paper cut is the best thing since sliced bread.