Most splinters are easily taken care of at home. But, some deep splinters may need medical attention.
Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in New Jersey, provided the following tips on how to safely remove a splinter:
- Pull the end of the splinter that is sticking out of the skin with a pair of tweezers. Be sure to pull the splinter out in the same direction that it entered the skin.
- If the entire splinter is under the skin, sterilize a small needle and the skin with alcohol. Use the needle to dislodge the splinter. Once it is partially out, use a pair of tweezers to remove it.
- Once the splinter is out, wash the affected area with soap and water.
- After cleaning the skin, apply antibacterial ointment and cover the wound with a bandage.
Some splinters may not be easily or safely removed at home, Davis noted in a hospital news release. Seek medical attention if the splinter seems very deep or if it is lodged under a fingernail. If a child with a splinter is unable to sit still long enough to allow it to be removed, it's a good idea get help from a medical professional.
Splinters may contain germs, including bacteria. As a result, anyone who gets a splinter may develop an infection. Davis pointed out that signs of infection include:
- Discharge (pus)
- Redness or red streaking
In rare cases, very large, deep splinters may affect nerves, tendons or even the blood vessels. In these cases, people may have issues with sensation or movement.
People with a splinter treated in the emergency room will likely be given antibiotics if it's infected, Davis said. Anyone treated for a splinter who is not protected against tetanus will be vaccinated for tetanus.
People with diabetes, cancer, kidney disease or another chronic medical condition may also be given antibiotics to prevent infection. Anyone with diabetes that gets a splinter in the foot may also need to be evaluated by a podiatrist. Diabetes increases the risk for poor circulation and nerve damage. As a result, a splinter in the foot could result in severe complications.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about splinter removal.