Ancient Shaman Ritual


String on SignOn the way into my shift, I walked by a room and noticed that there was iodoform gauze packing hanging on the sign outside the room.

Why was it there?

Someone found it on the floor and put it there so no one would trip?
Ancient Shaman ritual to ward off evil spirits?
Secret code showing the surgeon where his patient had been waiting for the past 6 hours?


Turns out that the patient had a gangrenous foot that strongly smelled like rotting flesh. The iodine from the gauze almost acted as a barrier to the smell spreading. When the patient first arrived, the odor reportedly wafted through the entire ED. By the time I arrived for my shift I only noticed the faint odor of iodine.

Of course curiosity got the best of me and I had to open the door to see how well the iodine gauze was working.
Gauze … great idea.
Opening the door … not so much.


  1. I’ve never seen this trick for odors – going to have to use it now. I’m sure central supply is going to wonder why our use of iodoform gauze is skyrocketing.

  2. I am the director of a wound care center in Texas. This is a daily issue in our facility. I read this blog and immediately asked my lead nurse to order iodoform. Anything is worth a try. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

  3. A couple mLs of pepermint oil in a oxygen humidifier (modified so no tubing can be connected) work well to. I’ve also put fresh coffee grounds in rooms to mask smells as well.

  4. We use peppermint oil at our hospital. Inexpensive and very effective. Take a one ounce bottle and put a piece of gauze in the top to act as a “wick”. Kills even the smelliest wounds.

  5. To SeaSpray, to answer your question, yes. This definitely could have been averted. The patient needed wound care, more than likely with debridement and antibiotics.

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