First Aid: Splinters
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.
Seek Medical Care
- 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 or seems to be infected
- your child's vaccines are not up to date
Make sure kids:
- avoid rubbing 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: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014