Whatever happened to …

… mercurochrome?

A long time ago and far away, a bunch of us saw a daredevil show at the local race track. Those stunt drivers did amazing things with their cars and we were so impressed. I remember walking home with friends planning how we could do our own stunt driving show with our bikes.

If you know what mercurochrome is, I’m sure that you can see where this is headed. My thanks to Alfred Thompson for the suggestion and the painful memories. This follows nicely in a medical fashion from last week’s post.

When we got home, we set up our own ramps on the street with some 2×4 boards and cinder blocks. We would take a run at the ramp on our bikes and fly into the air. The street we were on sloped downhill so we got added value by directing the ramp down the hill. Like the brave people we were, we took the ramp carefully at first and then revved up. My brother who didn’t want to participate was in charge of making chalk marks on the pavement so that we could challenge each other for distance.

The landing only counted if you landed on two wheels and were able to ride away. That didn’t always happen and sliding down the hill scraping arms and legs was not uncommon.

Minor scrapes and abrasions required a bit of shaking off but the major scraping and deep cuts required visits to our Doctor Moms. In my friend’s case, the prescription was iodine. For me, it was Mom making a trip to the medicine cabinet (which wasn’t the formal medicine cabinet and I’d love to talk to her to find out why) and mercurochrome. I’m told that iodine really stung and so you went as a last resource. Mercurochrome itself didn’t sting but the pressure of the little glass stick sure made you flinch.

I still remember that little ball on the end of the stick. To be honest, going and getting this treatment was always the last resort because it meant leaving friends behind. Usually, we’d just rub off the blood or lick it off if it was possible! After all, you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.

In his message to me, Alfred noted that it was banned in a number of countries including the United States but that Canada wasn’t on the list. I did some quick research at our drug store and at Walmart and couldn’t see it for sale. Either we’re a safe place, it’s only available by prescription, or it’s banned in Ontario as well. We do have Canadian restrictions on anything that contains mercury – https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/products-containing-mercury-regulations-questions.html#q4 so maybe that’s why.

I can’t recall using it after those very young years. Now that I’m married to a registered nurse, we use other antiseptics for those scrapes and bleeding moments. With grandchildren, the magic of kissing it and making it better comes into play at times too.

For a Sunday, your thoughts …

  • Were you a mercurochrome, iodine, or another type of medicine family?
  • Can you name other things in society that, at one time, were based on Mercury and ended up getting banned?
  • Were you ever a daredevil with your bike as a child?
  • What could you do on the ramp to get even more distance on your jump?
  • What do you use these days to treat cuts in your household? (Has it expired like ours has when I checked?)
  • Mercurochrome was supposed to allow for healing without leaving permanent scratches. Head to toe for you, did it work? Not for me; I do have some permanent marks
  • Do you have any memories of wiping out on a bicycle requiring medical attention from your mom?
  • Just how does the science of kissing a boo-boo work and make things all better?

Prove that everyone is a doctor and give your diagnosis in the comments below!

This is a regular Sunday post around here. You can read all the posts from the past at this link.

If you have an idea for a post, please reach out with it like Alfred did. I get a kick out of topics and a chance to reflect on them here.


3 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Good morning Doug!

    Yes, I remember Mercurochrome, right down to the little glass applicator. My mom was also an RN, so I don’t know if the choice of Mercurochrome versus iodine was the result of that. I still have her “nurses scissors“ in my medicine cabinet – – fortunately, I have never lost them up at airport security, and I’m now wiser than to take them with me.

    We also did the bikes and wooden ramps, likely a result of seeing daredevil motorcyclists jumping on ramps the fall fairs. We were smart enough not to try and jump our bikes over a car or through a hoop of fire. I don’t have any memories of major scrapes from that, but I do remember the two instances when I stepped on nails such that broke through the sole of my shoe and impaled my foot. I think in at least one instance someone had to help lift my foot off of the nail.

    One thing that I have been conscious of for a good number of years is that at some point the need to doctor cuts and scrapes became much less frequent. I put it down to a better sense of awareness of potential danger, maybe a bit more coordination, and probably a bit of experience. I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything these days in the medicine cabinet for treating minor cuts, and it’s been a dog’s age or five since I remember needing a band-aid — unless you count those little round ones that they put over the needle prick in your arm after a COVID needle.

    As for the retirement of mercury, I do remember my mom also having a small mercury thermometer for taking our temperature. My guess would be that that might be something that has been replaced in the medical profession over the years. When the boys were young, we had an ear thermometer that gave a digital reading, and as you know, these days they can take your temperature by pointing a high tech thermometer at your forehead.

    It’s a bit of a tangent, but I do remember having a watch in my teen years that had tritium paint to mark the hours and the ends of the hands so that I can you could check the time more easily in the dark. I’m trusting and assuming that no one manually dabbed the paint on using a small paintbrush they had first moistened using their tongue. As an adult I remember hearing of a factory on the Toronto waterfront where that had been done back in the 1940s, and the subsequent instances of tongue cancer that appeared among the workers. We’ve learned a lot over the years about the negative side effects of some earlier science–influenced practices. The nice thing about science is that, by nature, it evolves with time and with new learning, thereby helping to move us forward.


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