Splinters

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Darn those splinters! One minute you're happily walking across the wooden deck and the next minute — yow! You examine the soft, pink sole of your foot to find a teeny, tiny piece of wood stuck in there. You might even feel a little pinch with every step. What should you do?

Here are three steps to get that splinter out of your life, so you can go back to having fun:

  1. Tell an adult right away. In general, splinters should be removed. Splinters aren't usually serious, but the sooner you tell someone, the sooner he or she can remove the splinter. Try not to touch or pull on the splinter because you could end up breaking off part of it and making it harder to get out. If you let too much time pass, skin can grow over the splinter, also making it tougher to remove. Splinters that are not removed can start hurting more and can get infected.
  2. If possible, know your splinter. Some splinters are little pieces of wood. Others are made of metal or glass. A tiny thorn or a cactus spike also can get stuck in your skin. If you get a splinter, take note of what it came from or where it happened. Knowing what kind of splinter it is can help the person who's trying to remove it for you.
  3. Remain calm while a grown-up removes the splinter. Splinter removal might seem a little scary because sometimes an adult will use a clean needle to help expose the splinter. A needle? Uh-oh, you say. But, the clean needle is used only to gently scratch the skin a little so the splinter is easier to grab with a pair of tweezers. When it's out, you'll feel so much better.

Usually, splinters can be handled at home. But in some cases, you might have to visit the doctor. See a doctor if your splinter seems too deep, is bleeding a lot, can't be removed, or it seems infected (red, puffy, warm to the touch, or containing pus). Splinters under the fingernail may be hard to remove at home. But usually, a grown-up can remove a splinter just fine.

What's better than having that splinter out of your foot? Never getting it stuck there in the first place! Not all splinters can be prevented, but you'll avoid a lot of them if you take these steps:

  • Wear shoes! Shoes protect your tender feet from getting hurt. Wear shoes or flip-flops outside, especially on wooden porches, decks, and boardwalks. Also wear shoes or slippers anytime a glass gets broken or there's other debris on the floor in the house.
  • Watch out for wooden railings and playground equipment. Don't rub your hands along these rough surfaces. Hands are another prime location for getting a splinter.
  • Look before you roll into the bushes and brush. Some plants have thorns, spikes, or little prickly things on them, so watch out before you make that diving catch. You also might want to look before you sit. No one wants a splinter in the behind!

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: July 2010

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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