Splinters: How to Remove Them and When to See a Doctor
A splinter is a foreign body that is partially or fully embedded in the skin. Usually, a splinter is wood, but it can also be metal, plastic, or glass. Most splinters are discovered when they penetrate the skin and cause pain or other discomfort. Because any foreign object can pose a risk of infection by introducing germs into the body, it is important to carefully remove it as soon as possible. Most splinters can be easily taken out at home without complications; however, in some cases, medical intervention might be required.
To safely remove a splinter:
- If an end of the splinter is protruding from the skin, grasp it firmly with a pair of tweezers and pull it out in the same direction that it entered, and then wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
- If the splinter is fully embedded near the surface of the skin, clean both the skin and a small needle with alcohol, then gently use the needle to partially dislodge the splinter. If successful, remove it fully with tweezers and wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
- If the splinter is more deeply embedded in the skin, soak the affected area in warm water mixed with a tablespoon of baking soda twice daily. Within a few days, the splinter might work itself out to a point that it can be dislodged with a needle and/or grasped with tweezers.
Sometimes, it is necessary to consult a healthcare provider to ensure the safe removal of a splinter. Promptly see a doctor if:
- A splinter is embedded too deeply to attempt removal at home.
- A splinter breaks during the removal process and a portion remains embedded in the skin.
- A splinter is lodged under a fingernail or toenail.
- Any signs of infection, such as pain, swelling, redness, or discharge, are present. Even if a splinter is completely removed and the area is thoroughly cleansed, infection can develop because the protective skin barrier was broken.
- A child or other uncooperative patient is difficult to restrain, making it challenging to attempt the safe removal of a splinter.
If you have questions or would like to see a doctor for help with the removal of a splinter, please contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. Our walk-in clinic is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL.