Splinters are tiny pieces of wood, glass, or metal that lodge under the skin, usually in the finger. Most people know that even the smallest splinter can cause much pain and discomfort. Furthermore, if it is not removed, it can cause an infection to develop, which may increase pain. However, sometimes, removing a splinter improperly can also lead to complications that lead to infection.

Handling an object may cause a small portion to dislodge as the person applies friction to that object (examples would be woodworking, metalworking, or falling and sliding on wooden floors). The protective thorns of plants may cause splinters to lodge in the skin while gardening.

Going into the woods to spend time and admire nature is fun but coming back home with splinter in the skin is not so encouraging. Removing a stubborn splinter from your finger or foot is never painless, especially if it involves digging into your skin with a needle or tweezers. But you can actually remove splinters from your skin very easily and quite painlessly using common household or food items around the house.

There are many ways to remove a splinter, but first you must learn the first aid steps involved:

1) Do not squeeze the splinter
When cleaning or examining the area surrounding the splinter, you may be tempted to squeeze the surrounding skin to get a better look. This can cause the splinter to break into smaller fragments or become stuck deeper in the skin. Never squeeze the splinter or surrounding skin while removing the splinter.

2) Examine the area
Use a magnifying glass if need be. See how big the splinter is and see the angle it’s going into the skin. This can help you avoid pressing the splinter deeper into the skin when applying your paste and band aid. Make sure not to press on the splinter in the direction it’s angled into your skin.

3) Clean and dry the area
You want to make sure to avoid an infection when dealing with a splinter. Before you attempt to remove the splinter, clean the skin around the where the splinter is stuck. Wash your skin with soap and water and then gently pat the area dry with a paper towel.

Here are some ways to remove a splinter properly:

• Salve

This is a painless way to remove a splinter, but it will take a day to accomplish it. Purchase an over-the-counter ointment called Ichthammol (black drawing salve) from a pharmacy. It is a greasy material with an unpleasant odor. Place a small amount of the ointment on your splinter and cover it with a band-aid. Remove the band-aid after several hours and pick off the splinter.

• Baking Soda

Use topical anesthetic or baby Orajel for extremely painful splinters before trying to remove them. Make a paste out of baking soda and water apply the thick paste to the splinter and you can also spread some of this paste on a bandage, and then place it over the affected area. Remove bandage after about 24 hours. You may see the splinter sticking out of your skin. Pick off the splinter with tweezers. Rinse skin gently. If splinter is not visible, repeat the process with new baking soda paste and a new bandage until splinter is gone.

• Tweezers

This familiar method works best when the splinter is protruding out of the skin. Sterilize the tweezers tip using rubbing alcohol. Use a magnifying glass to view the splinter under good lighting. Grab the protruding splinter with tweezers.

• Needle
Uses the needle method if the splinter is under a thin skin layer. Sterilize the needle tip using rubbing alcohol then find the point of entry of the splinter and stick in the needle as lightly as you can. Using the needle tip, apply upward pressure to open the overlying skin. Going a bit further, apply an upward scraping motion to pull skin apart and see the splinter. Nudge out the splinter gently then use a pair of tweezers to pull out the splinter.

• Nail clipper or razor blade
This method is used for splinter that is embedded under thick, non-sensitive skin (ex. heel of the foot or finger pads). Sterilize sharp edge of nail clipper/blade using rubbing alcohol. Clip off excess skin over the splinter with nail clippers. You can also use a razor blade as in needle to cut skin parallel to the splinter. Pull skin gently to see the splinter. Use tweezers to pull the splinter out. If the splinter is not sticking out, use a needle to nudge it out before pulling it out with the tweezers.

• Potato
Slice a potato into pieces. Place a potato slice with the yellowish side over the splinter holding it over the splinter for a few minutes will help remove the splinter after a while. Avoid applying pressure. Remove the potato slice and the splinter.

• Packaging tape

Cut a piece of packaging tape that is long enough to cover area of splinters. Apply tape over the splinter area, making sure not to put on too much pressure, but just enough to make the tape stick. Peel off the tape gently to lift the splinters away. Repeat as necessary.

It is a good idea to apply antibiotic ointment after removing the splinter. This will help prevent an infection. You can get an antibacterial ointment at any drug store. Apply the ointment as directed. For example, use a cream from a drug store like neosporin to cover the wound. If you’re on existing medication, check with a pharmacist before selecting your ointment. You want to make sure the ointment you choose with not interfere with your current medication.

Watch this video by SciShow on what happens if you don’t take out a splinter?

Sometimes, your skin will bleed after you remove a splinter. Press firmly around the area where the splinter was. This will bring the skin together to patch up the wound and stop bleeding. You may also need to apply a band aid. If a splinter will not come out and is causing heavy bleeding, you may need medical attention. You also may need medical attention for a splinter that’s underneath a fingernail or toenail. If you are not up to date on your vaccinations, you should see a doctor if you get a splinter to make sure you don’t need something like a tetanus shot to prevent infection.


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