Doctors Share Hilarious DIY Treatments Their Patients Have Attempted
Who doesn’t love a good DIY project? Make a beautiful new table out of something trashy you found at Goodwill. Make your own cookie cutters from old coat hangers and nail polish (don’t ask for directions on that one). If you’ve got a creative streak, DIY is probably something you’ve attempted before.
Maybe you should just leave the DIY projects for the crafting parts of your life, though. Doctors don’t usually know that they’re about to see the weirdest stuff of their career until they walk through the door, and for many, patients’ DIY treatments are downright surprising (and a little laughable).
These are the stories they just don’t tell you in medical school…unless you have a really cool professor. Then you’re way ahead of the curve already.
We had a patient come in for I&D of bilateral deltoid abscesses. He apparently had thoughts of being a bodybuilder, but instead of lifting weights, he decided to bulk up by buying some protein powder at GNC, mixing it with water, drawing it up into a syringe, and injecting 20-40cc daily directly into the muscle.
If bulk was what he was going for, it definitely worked, temporarily. A rip-roaring localized infection makes you look plenty swole. Reddit User: [RyanB612]
Vacuumed His Face
My dad had an abscess on his face. It was huge, about the size of a golf ball. It kept getting bigger. My mom (a nurse) kept telling him to go to the doctor, but my dad refused. One day when she was gone, we noticed that a big white head had formed on the abscess. My dad went out to the garage, got his shop vac, and proceeded to suck out the abscess.
It worked surprisingly well and healed up after that nicely. Mom was still furious, though. She still won’t stop talking about it. Reddit User: Greeneggsandmandy
Not for Internal Use
I had a guy come in for coughing and shortness of breath for the past few months. His lungs sounded like absolute garbage. Got a chest x-ray that looked horrible, so I did a CT scan. Radiologist called it the worst case of necrotizing pneumonia he’d ever seen. Dude had like 15% functional lung tissue left. The patient then mentioned that things had been worse after he started using a new “breath freshener” spray….
He whipped out one of those BluntEffects concentrated air freshener bottles supposed to cover up strong smells. Labeled “Not For Internal Use.” Reddit User: Iamthewarthog
In nursing school, while I was on clinical rotation in urology, there was a man who ended up having his privates removed. It turned out he had an infection brewing for quite a while and thought the best course of action was placing a sock over his privates in the hope that it would heal.
He was confused and upset as to why this didn’t work to heal the issue. The medical equivalent of turning the radio up when one’s car is making a weird noise. Reddit User: Psychnurse709
Duct Tape Fixes Everything
Patient comes in with head pain. When I get to see him and ask him what actually happened, he removes his hat, and a chunk of skin about the size of my hand flaps off of his head. This guy managed to basically scalp himself, and apparently it had been like that for 3 days.
According to him, it was caused by falling in his bathroom. He had been previously duct taping it down, but it wasn’t sticking well, and that’s when his wife convinced him to come to the hospital. Reddit User: Do_my_cat_daddy
Not me, but my boss (mother of the child I care for) is a nurse practitioner. I asked her what the worst thing she had witnessed was. She continued on to tell me the story of a man who had stapled his private area together and onto his body after “slipping with the razor.” He had it that way for days, metal holding his pieces in place.
It got infected and gross, as you would expect, before he came to a professional. Later, he admitted his ex attempted to castrate him. Reddit User: [redacted]
We had a guy come in with an abscess on his right thumb. When I asked him what happened to his hand, he told me about his recent deep sea fishing trip; he was given the responsibility of cutting the fish despite an open wound on his hand. A sliver of fish got in there and became infected as it healed, so this guy got the bright idea of doing a little DIY wound drainage.
He grabbed his pocket knife and cut it open, leading to an even worse infection. Reddit User: itsjakefromstatefarm
Had a patient come into the ER. He had fallen on rocks while hiking that left a three-inch long, half-inch deep gash in his leg. I go to pull the bandage off, and as I’m peeling it away, I notice the skin is completely black. It looked necrotic, like it had been left alone for a week. I look at this guy like he’s crazy as he tells me the wound is only a few hours old.
He explains that he created a makeshift poultice by chewing up leaves and moss, mixing it with river mud, and stuffing it into his leg. Reddit User: coffeeartist
Leg Discrepancies and Seizures
My grandpa thought a “leg discrepancy” was causing my back pain, which was causing spasms. He put several pieces of cardboard in my shoes to try to even out my legs, which were already even. Needless to say, he was wrong. He also thinks black beans cure everything.
My dad thought those pesky spasms were a pinched nerve, so he would take me to the chiropractor (his girlfriend) to get my neck cracked when it happened. They were seizures. Reddit User: ambiguousmurmur
German Shepherd Bite
This guy comes in with his little girl and says that she was bitten in the face by the family German shepherd. What I encounter is a little girl with a laceration going all the way from over her left eye crossing her nose and mouth. It is not bleeding whatsoever, and it seems to have an odd-looking substance inside. So I obviously ask the dad what she got inside it.
He responds very proudly with, “ Ah yes, I packed the wound with tobacco from my cigarettes and super glue.” Reddit User: C10sutton
Saw a young child (about age 6-7) with a bruised, swollen, crooked forearm. He had fallen on the playground 3 days earlier, and another parent there was a vet and had horse X-ray equipment in his truck. That parent took X-rays and told mom he was probably fine. So that was apparently good enough for mom.
She didn’t do anything for 3 days while he was up all night screaming in pain. I got him real X-rays and a nice cast for his broken arm. Reddit User: doctorvictory
There was a guy who had a rare condition that required bloodletting, but he didn’t have the money to afford the treatment as often as he would need it. Like any rational human being, he decided to build an apparatus at home using a shop vac, mason jars, an IV needle, and surgical tubing.
No big deal. One day he isn’t paying attention and sets the vac to “blow” instead of “pull.” He’s very lucky he didn’t die; he just had a major stroke. Reddit User: [redacted]
Guy had abdominal pain. Drank a bunch of beer and tried to give himself an appendectomy with a steak knife on his front porch. Wife called 911. We roll onto the scene and ask him if he wants treatment/a ride to the emergency department. He looks up at us. Looks down at the mess he has made. Says, “Hang on, lemme see if I can fix this first.”
He then tries to cauterize the wound he made with his cigarette. Realizing that that isn’t working, he goes, “Well darn, let’s go, I guess.” Reddit User: Maelja
Not a medical professional myself, but during my PhD in gastrointestinal sciences, I attended a lot of clinical seminars. One doctor described having a patient with severe colitis who was so desperate for relief, the patient had their healthy sister poop in a blender, which they used in an enema as a DIY fecal transplant.
As an aside, fecal transplants are a remarkably efficacious treatment for some forms of colitis, so this wasn’t totally out of left field. This is, however, the epitome of don’t try this at home. Reddit User: drunk_midnight_choir
Cornstarch and Water
I worked in an ER, and a lady came in complaining of having bugs all over her. I read the nurse’s notes before going into the room, and she told the nurses that she had bugs in her hair and crawling under her skin. When we went into the patient’s room, she was scratching aggressively and had made a paste out of cornstarch and water to smear all over her body.
No bugs in sight; the medical term for feeling bugs crawling is formication. Turns out she was just high. Reddit User: [redacted]
I had a patient whose upper denture was loose, so they applied superglue to it, dried their mouth, and stuck it in! Worked great, but obviously they couldn’t get the denture out again. A couple weeks later, his wife forced him to come see me due to the smell coming from his mouth. The gum tissue became necrotic, and the patient lost all the tissue on the roof of his mouth.
It didn’t feel very good to have the bone in the roof of his mouth exposed after the tissue rotted away. Reddit User: [redacted]
Amputations Are Expensive
I’m a nurse and once had a guy come in who had severely broken his pinky to the point that it was going to have to be amputated. He asked about the treatment options and cost. When we gave him ball-park estimates for the surgical amputation, he refused treatment and left the hospital.
About an hour later, the same guy came back requiring stitches on his hand after his friend chopped his pinky off with a hatchet. Reddit User: asweeney930
Lysol and Comet
I used to work in a unit that dealt with a lot of abscesses and flesh eating diseases. This one guy came in because he had been treating an abscess on his back on his own. It has started out as a pimple, and he kept saying he was disinfecting it on his own. By the time he came in, it had spread from shoulder to shoulder.
When I asked him what he used to disinfect it, he said Lysol and Comet. That didn’t work. Reddit User: elenabanana
Patient was a serious athlete. After a workout, his forearm was really sore. Ice didn’t help much, Advil didn’t help much, so he decided to massage it. He thought the handle end of a screwdriver would be a good massage tool. Dug in a bit too far, ended up causing radial nerve palsy, aka wrist drop, in his dominant hand.
DIY treatment for a sore muscle led to not being able to lift his hand, months of therapy, and months unable to participate in his sport. Ice, Advil, and rest for a couple days would’ve solved the issue. Reddit User: paradisevendors
Glaucoma Eye Drops
I work for a glaucoma specialist, and the craziest DIY treatment I saw a patient attempt was a mixture of lemon, onion, and ginger juice as an eye drop treatment that he found online. He ignored how red his eyes were and thought the “burning sensation” was a sign that the mixture was working.
Needless to say, after stopping all his regular eye medications to use his DIY treatment, he had to go into emergency surgery the following week. Reddit User: amandalinx
Cut Off Fingers
I got a patient in the ED once that had cut off all four of the fingers on his left hand with a buzz saw. He handed me a ziplock bag with all the fingers floating in ice water. Mistake #1. If you cut off a finger, or any limb for that matter, place it/them in a bag, then in ice. We can’t do anything with soggy, waterlogged appendages.
Number two, don’t use motor oil to try and stop the bleeding. It doesn’t work. We promise. Reddit User: docdathruhiker
Not a doctor myself yet, but I come from a family of ophthalmologists, and I’ve heard some pretty whack stuff from my dad, uncle, grandfather, and great grandad. You wouldn’t think that eye doctors would have the best stories. Probably the worst one I heard of is one my great grandad told me last year about a dude who developed cataracts AND ATTEMPTED TO REMOVE THEM HIMSELF WITH A KITCHEN KNIFE back in the ’70s.
Needless to say, it didn’t end well, and the man ended up losing his vision completely despite the doctor’s efforts. Reddit User: sankethraju
Nurse here. Just last week one of my cystic fibrosis patients decided to give himself an enema for constipation. Keep in mind he is currently living in a hospital. He rigged up some oxygen tubing to the bathroom faucet and made himself a DIY tap water enema. I thought this was absolutely hilarious, because I have never heard of a patient doing this before.
He could have literally just asked for an enema, since you know, he’s in a hospital. In case anyone was wondering, it was very successful! Reddit User: Imonlydyingrelax
I work with the homeless population, so the mental health focus is super high. One of the best ones was when we got a message from another site to keep an eye out for this guy who had this wound on his foot that looked infected and was “self-treating” with a piece of sliced cheese. The patient ate the cheese during examination.
One of the workers ended up throwing up. Just imagine. A piece of cheese on an infected wound that has probably been there for a good two or three days…. Reddit User: ironcoffin
In dental school, we had a woman come into the clinic for a broken front tooth. When she opened her mouth for me to examine her, I noticed something odd. Her tooth had something plastic on it. I asked her what it was; she had shaped a press-on nail in the shape of a tooth and glued it to the remaining part of her broken front tooth.
She was seriously committed to this temporary fix, because she told me that she got the glue to adhere to her tooth by drying it with a hair dryer. Reddit User: nsjones76
Leeches for Dead Blood
Home health nurse. I had a patient’s family member nonchalantly tell me that they were going to go get leeches from the flea market. I asked why. Was not prepared for the answer. Her husband had swollen veins in his legs, and she thought leeches were the best way to get rid of the “dead blood.” I laughed a bit and then showed her compression socks that she could order off Amazon.
That was an awesome family to be around during work. Always kept me entertained to be sure! Reddit User: [redacted]
During my fellowship in vascular surgery, I saw a diabetic patient that had 2 of her toes become gangrenous. She had already lost one toe on her other foot and didn’t want to go to the doctor. She had tickets for a cruise and decided to cut off her toes with scissors.
She proceeded to do that and went on her cruise but got an awful infection (gangrene) and had to have an amputation below the knee. At least she got to go on her cruise, right? Reddit User: DrCut
I was on a camping trip out of the country with my parents when I was a kid, and I started having some ear pain the day after swimming in the lake. My mom had brought along a cosmetics bag and tried to cure me by pouring various concoctions into my ear. Hand cream, calamine lotion, aloe lotion….
Yup, nothing helped. Yup, I had an ear infection. Yup, the doctor had questions when he saw the inside of my ear covered with pink stuff and lotion. Reddit User: toxik0n
Some dude walks into the urology office I work at with an X-ray report and images on a disk. Dude has a stone in his bladder, and he is bothered by recurrent urine infections, so he decides to have it lasered out. During his surgery, they recovered a Crayola crayon covered in stone and successfully removed the entire object.
When the dude woke up and was questioned by the doc the dude admitted that he had placed it there on accident. Just why? Reddit User: [redacted]
This is a true story. No joke. This guy who lives in the mountains got a cut on his arm while chopping wood, ended up developing gangrene, and was told he was gonna need to amputate his arm. Thinking he had nothing really to lose, he went home, superheated a big knife, cauterized the whole wound, treated it with some herbs, and called it a day.
Years later, he’s got a gnarly burn scar on his arm and a crazy story. But a functioning arm at that. That guy is my uncle. Reddit User: [redacted]
Laxatives and Screwdrivers
I had a patient who had abused laxatives for so long that he was chronically and severely constipated. I had a nursing student with me, and we were about to give the patient a soapsuds enema and then digitally clear him. I asked the patient how he usually handled his condition now that laxatives/stool softeners no longer worked; he said he used a screwdriver daily to break up the blockage.
The look on my student’s face was priceless. If you’re wondering if this patient was joking, he absolutely was NOT. Reddit User: Joyjoy55
Penicillin from Tractor Supply
Patient had a cancerous tumor on his earlobe/jaw. They thought it was an infection and used penicillin you buy for horses at Tractor Supply. As their skin began to necrotize, maggots got into the skin. (It was actually a bit good for the issue, as they ate the dead tissue away.) They were annoyed by the squirming and kept using sugar water to “wash them out.”
They only came to the ER to see if they could wash them out for them, not to actually treat the whole thing. Reddit User: kyuuei
A Glass of Water and a Nap
Had a man come in who truly believed that his best bet for any condition was “a tall glass of water and a good nap.” The man fell on his steps at home and hit the back of his head. He was on blood thinners. Decided to take a nap. When he came in he was barely conscious and was so caked in blood we couldn’t determine the location of the injury.
What could have been a short stay in the ER ended up being a few weeks of in-patient care. Reddit User: mcardwell
Neosporin, Toilet Paper, Ace Bandage, and Duct Tape
I work in the veterinary field. One of our canine patients had been bitten by a snake multiple times on his abdomen. The client had taken pieces of toilet paper soaked in Neosporin and essentially stuffed the Neosporin toilet paper into his wounds, basically creating a raging infection. On top of that, she wrapped the wounds with an ace bandage and duct tape.
It was horrific, and she genuinely thought she was doing the right thing and declined our treatment and antibiotics. She then told us our treatments were not as good as hers. Reddit User: rkizz
The Stick of BUTTer
Not a professional, but my mother is an ICU nurse. This is her story she told me that I will never forget. She once had an elderly lady, 70-80 years old, who had some severe constipation and was given some laxatives to help her out, but the lady wasn’t convinced it would work.
So some time later, my mom walks in while doing her rounds. She finds this elderly lady, behind waving in the air, trying to stick butter she got with dinner up her butt. Reddit User: [redacted]
Mustard on Burns
A guy came into the ER with grease burns to his legs from cooking BBQ, and when I went in the room, the legs were a strange yellow color and the room smelled so weird. He proceeded to tell me that he rubbed mustard all over the burns because he had heard somewhere that it helped the pain.
It didn’t work for him, and we had to give him loads of pain meds and clean all that dried mustard off his burned legs. Reddit User: whitep
Ice solves everything. It was 1995, and I was 9 years old. We were playing pogs in front of the TV. My buddy slammed the slammer a bit too hard. It bounced off the board, off the TV, then straight into my mouth. Broke my two front teeth off right at the gumline. My babysitter decides that ice is the solution for everything, so she proceeds to pin me down and holds ice on the exposed nerves sticking out of my gums.
She tells me to quit being such a baby while I am screaming my head off because it hurts so bad. Reddit User: entropyandcreation
Don’t Eat Sauerkraut
My wife likes to shower me with all her gross patient stories. She mentioned having one patient who had rectal pains. There was a little bit of a language barrier, but she said the patient kept on saying something about cabbage. When it came time to do the exam, the patient dropped trow and lo and behold, a bundle of cabbage between the patient’s buttcheeks.
It turns out the patient had an abscess and was using cabbage to treat it. Long story short, her patient gave me one more reason not to eat sauerkraut. Reddit User: zizzblant