How to Remove a Splinter

Safe steps to avoid an infected splinter

Boy with splinter in his hand
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A splinter is a tiny impaled object that can be removed at home without ever seeing a doctor. However, you shouldn't ignore them. Splinters can become infected if left under the skin too long. Use these steps to see if it should be safe to remove the splinter yourself or whether you should see a doctor. One precaution is that splinters in or near the eye should only be removed by a healthcare provider.

Check for Signs Infection Before Removing a Splinter

Look for these signs of infection before trying to remove a splinter:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pus draining from the wound
  • Severe pain even without movement

If the splinter has become infected, see a doctor for removal. The chances of a splinter becoming infected depend on what the splinter is: organic material—like animal spines or plant thorns—are more likely to cause infection or toxic reactions.​

What You Will Need

Assemble these items:

  • Needle
  • Pair of tweezers
  • Povidone-iodine solution (prep pad, swab, or liquid)
  • Soap and water

Steps to Remove a Splinter

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before attempting to remove the splinter.
  2. Before trying more invasive methods, squeeze the splinter from both sides and the bottom of the splinter to try and work it back out the way it came.
  3. Clean a needle and a pair of tweezers with povidone-iodine solution. Do not use isopropyl alcohol unless that's all you have available. Povidone-iodine is much more effective at killing bacteria than isopropyl alcohol.
  1. Wash the wound and surrounding area with soap and warm water. A little povidone-iodine solution on the wound is also not a bad idea.
  2. Use the needle to open up the skin above the splinter and expose the end of the splinter. If the needle doesn't work, a pair of nail clippers can be used on the skin. Remember to clean the nail clippers with the povidone-iodine solution before using them.
  1. Grasp the end of the splinter with the tweezers and back it out of the skin at the same angle it went into the skin.
  2. Wash the wound with warm water and soap. Again, the povidone-iodine solution is an excellent skin cleanser in this situation.
  3. If the wound is likely to get dirty after the splinter removal, cover it with a bandage until the skin is healed.

Tips

  • Usually, the pain of a splinter is more irritable than anything. However, if the area is very tender, try a bee-sting swab to dull the pain.
  • Splinters under a fingernail (subungal splinters) may present a bigger problem. If the tip of the splinter cannot be reached with tweezers, you have the option of going see a doctor or not. A doctor will be able to snip away the nail and pull the splinter out. The other option is to keep the area clean and wait until natural nail growth pushes the splinter out. Watch the area closely for signs of infection.
  • Make sure the person with the splinter is up to date on tetanus vaccination. If not, have the doctor remove the splinter when going in to get the vaccination.
  • Finally, splinters will work out of the skin naturally and may not need to be removed. There's no need to hurry if you are away from home and the necessary clean supplies. Wait until the proper cleanliness can be achieved to remove splinters.

    Source:

    Splinter Removal. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002137.htm.

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