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First Aid: Splinters

Medically reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD

First Aid

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.

Get Medical Care if:

  • 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
  • the skin around the wound looks infected
  • your child's vaccines are not up to date

Think Prevention!

Make sure kids:

  • don't rub their 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
Medically reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: June 2018