Why papercuts won’t kill you

Clue: Without it, you’d be dead right now

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Poorly drawn image of a papercut by the author

It’s nighttime. You’re relaxing at home reading a book on Twitter’s invention.

You’re lying on your comfy bed while enjoying some Silicon Valley drama and getting ready to sleep. And then the most horribly annoying thing happens. As you try to turn the page, the sharp edge of the page brushes against your skin. You suddenly feel a sharp pain on the tip of your index finger. Alarmed you quickly look at it only to realize that it has happened again.

A papercut. How annoying! You grab a tissue to remove the tiny drop of blood from your finger. You briefly consider picking up a sticky plaster from your first aid kit at the back of your drawer. But it’s too far and you’re too lazy to get out of your cosy blankets. Besides, it’s a papercut, right? Who cares?

A bit irritated, you finally turn the damn page this time without injuring yourself and continue with your thrilling story.

While you were complaining about getting a papercut, your body had a very different experience. From the perspective of your skin cells, a huge dagger just fell from the sky ripping your outer layer of skin apart. Not only that but the hundreds of thousands of bacteria¹ that were chilling² on your skin are now trying to get into the wound and make your body their home.

This is not very good if you like being alive since most bacteria will try to take your resources and make an infinite amount of baby bacteria that take even more of your resources. This keeps happening until your whole body is full of bacteria. And then you die. You die from a papercut.

Oh! And besides that, your body is leaking blood through the papercut wound. This isn’t good either and if nothing is done about it you most likely will die from bleeding.

As you might know, if you are reading this, this usually doesn’t happen (although as we both know papercuts are quite annoying)³.

Why don’t you die from papercuts?

The short answer: your immune system.

The long answer: your immune system, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

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