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First Aid: Splinters

First Aid

Splinters are objects that become embedded under the skin. Most often these are tiny pieces of wood, although glass, metal, and plastic can be splinters too.

Taking a splinter out as soon as you spot it helps prevent infection and makes removal easier (since the skin won't have time to heal over the splinter).

Signs and Symptoms

  • a small speck or line under the skin, usually on the hands or feet
  • a feeling that something is stuck under the skin
  • pain at the location of the splinter
  • sometimes redness, swelling, warmth, or pus (signs of infection)

What to Do

To remove a splinter:

  • Wash your hands, then the area around the splinter with soap and warm water.
  • Sterilize tweezers and a needle by putting the ends of each in boiling water, then wipe them off with a clean cotton ball or alcohol pad.
  • If the splinter is sticking through the skin, firmly grip the end with the tweezers. Pull slowly and gently at the same angle the splinter went in so it won't break.
  • If the tip of the splinter isn't sticking out, gently scrape the skin away from the splinter with the needle until there's an end to grab with the tweezers.
  • After the splinter is removed, wash the area again and cover it with a bandage.

Get Medical Care if:

  • the splinter seems to be too deep or won't come out
  • the splinter is under a fingernail or toenail and can't be reached
  • the wound is bleeding a lot
  • the skin around the wound looks infected
  • your child's vaccines are not up to date

Think Prevention!

Make sure kids:

  • don't rub their hands on wooden surfaces (picnic tables, outdoor furniture, playground equipment, railings, toys)
  • wear shoes on decks, boardwalks, and docks, and when wading in water
  • wear slippers or shoes after glass breaks on the floor
  • steer clear of bushes and plants with thorns or spikes

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date Reviewed: Jun 15, 2018

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