Simply put, painful splinters can be a real bummer. That constant sense that a foreign object is embedded in your skin is one of the most irritating feelings in the world! The fact that you can even see it sometimes and not be able to reach it, is just plain annoying.
You can get a splinter in many different ways like when handling thorns, wood, metal, glass or even plastic. Most people are able to remove splinters easily without needing any medical intervention. If they aren’t removed quickly though, they can cause an infection so make sure to deal with them as soon as you can. In some cases, splinters may need to be removed by medical experts if they're deeply implanted.
Usually, there's either a small flow of blood internally around the affected area or none at all. At times, the splinter may not be noticed until an infection starts to develop. When an infection develops, the affected area becomes sensitive, red, swollen and tender. So what do you do when you have a splinter?
How to draw out a deep splinter
If a splinter doesn't come out from under the skin on its own, don't worry. There are many natural ingredients and practical, inexpensive home remedies you can try to remove splinters quickly and painlessly:
Honey is a double whammy as it can be used to help remove the splinter and soothe the affected area afterward. Slathering honey on a splinter can help draw it out naturally and painlessly and because it has antiseptic and therapeutic properties, you can apply a substantial amount of the gooey stuff (1).
2. Bread and milk
This is a pretty simple solution that seems to be quite popular in the home remedy world according to the web... but also quite strange. Dab a small piece of bread with a little bit of milk and place it over the splinter. Secure the bread with a plaster or band-aid overnight if you can. Getting the splinter to surface is easy as it gets stuck onto the piece of bread. Make sure to clean the area with antiseptic once the splinter is removed to avoid infection. Who knew bread could remove a splinter!
3. Duct tape
Another go-to way of drawing out a deep splinter without pain is by covering it with duct tape. Ensure that the sticky side of the tape is directly on the splinter. After thirty minutes, gently remove the tape and, ta-da! The splinter will naturally come out with it, say most people on home remedy sites.
4. White vinegar
White vinegar is an effective home remedy for removing splinters. The acidic nature of the vinegar can slightly break through the skin’s surface, making it super easy for you to pull out the splinter using sanitized tweezers. Go slow and gentle so as not to hurt yourself.
5. Onions and tomatoes
Onions and tomatoes have magic properties – they have the ability to get a splinter to surface painlessly. Simply slice an onion or a tomato and secure the flesh part onto the splinter with a plaster over the affected area. Make sure to wash your hands before you pick out the splinter or use sterilized tweezers to prevent irritation or infection afterward.
6. Baking soda
It's said that baking soda can draw out a splinter in your sleep – how? Mix it with water to create a paste until the mixture becomes sticky. If you have other ingredients in your kitchen cupboard, you can blend flour, a pinch of salt and water instead. Once the mixture becomes sticky, apply it over the splinter and then cover using a plaster or band-aid. Leave it overnight so that the splinter can naturally stick to the homemade paste. Voila, another natural and easy way to get a deep splinter out without pain.
7. Epsom salt
Epsom salt works miracles to help draw out a deep splinter. It absorbs water from your skin cells making it easier for the splinter to surface, giving you the chance to pull it out effortlessly. The bonus is that you can enjoy a nice, hot soothing magnesium bath while waiting for your fingers to get prune-like in order for you to draw out the splinter easily.
8. Lavender oil
Lavender oil has antimicrobial properties, so lathering up the affected area prevents any infections while you prep to remove the splinter (2). It can be used both before while treating the splinter, to after when keeping the wound clean and clear of infection.
9. Hydrogen peroxide
Another popular way to remove splinters is using hydrogen peroxide. Soak a new cotton pad or cotton ball in some of the solution and rub it on the affected area. After a few minutes as the peroxide 'bubbles', it moves the splinter toward the surface of the skin making it easier to remove. Then, use clean tweezers to get rid of the splinter. Always be careful when using chemicals and make sure to wash your hands and all surfaces afterward and avoid any contact with your eyes.
10. Raw potato
If you slice a sliver of raw potato and place it on top of the splinter it could help to remove it without any pain. Wearing a light glove or sock to hold it in place overnight is said to make the splinter rise to the surface and you should be able to scrape it off or pull it out easily the next morning.
How to remove splinters in children
Given your child’s touchy-feely nature, it’s bound to happen – whether they're playing around wood furniture or rolling around in the sandbox. Fortunately, removing splinters in children is almost always a quick and mostly painless process. Here's a step by step guide to help you get the job done without temper tantrums or infections:
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. The splinter has cut through your child's skin so you don't want to smear the tiny wound with your bacteria.
• One of the gentlest (and least scary to a small child) options is plain old cellophane tape. Simply tear off a small piece, press it gently over the splinter tip, and then pull off the tape in the direction that the splinter entered the skin. If the splinter isn’t lodged too deeply, it should stick to the tape and slide right out.
• Once it's out, make sure to clean the little wound with a touch of antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage. It's worth keeping an eye on the area for signs of infection like swelling, redness or pus.
If the pain is too much for your little one or the splinter is more serious than you think, make sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible to help remove the splinter efficiently and painlessly.
How to tell if a splinter is still there
One of the worst feelings is thinking you removed a splinter that's been lodged in your skin only to discover there's still a bit in there. If a piece or part of a splinter has broken off when you tried to remove it and stayed trapped under your skin, there are some things you can try quickly. If you can see any form of red/brown line or dot under the skin, that could be a sign of something still in there. Also, when you apply pressure to the area, if you wince in pain, that's another sign you could have left a piece behind.
If it's close to the surface and there is no inflammation, you can try using sanitized tweezers or even use the edge of a cleaned debit or credit card to try and scrape it to the surface. Go gently as you don't want to cut your skin or bleed.
If you find that the leftover splinter is too deep and still painful, refer to some of these tips or speak to your Doctor.
What happens if you don't remove a splinter?
Most splinters can be easily removed at home without causing any pain or the risk of infection developing. However, if the splinter is big or large in size and can't be removed or surfaced easily it's likely that it can cause infection.
As a foreign body, it was not likely sterile, therefore your skin has bacteria embedded in it and is likely getting pushed deeper into your skin which can cause further infection. Should this be the case, make sure you seek medical attention.
What happens if you get an infection from a splinter?
Whether small or large, all splinters can cause local inflammation to the affected area and can become really uncomfortable if they don't make their way out within a week or two. This can cause an infection, but most don't require antibiotics. However, watch out for symptoms of an infection from a splinter like erythema (redness), swelling, pain, or purulence. This means that you'll most probably need medical assistance if it doesn't subside.
Can splinters be dangerous?
If you don't remove organic splinters, the body can contract certain serious infections. For example, a wood splinter left in the skin can cause the bacterial disease tetanus, which can bring about rigidity and muscle spasms in the body. Another infection that can occur is called rose gardener’s disease, which is caused by a fungus on rose thorns that can lead to painful sores.
Watch out for organic splinters rather than inorganic ones like glass, for example, as they can cause more harm and should be dealt with as soon as possible whether at home or in a clinic. Some Doctors have even recommended leaving tiny shards lodged in the skin rather than poking around and obstructing the appearance as they do not cause further damage to the body. If you are concerned about an organic or inorganic splinter you or a loved one has, seek medical attention.
How to prevent splinters
Since splinters are usually painful and can be hard to remove, try to prevent you or your kids from getting splinters in the first place and if either of you are prone to getting them, such as by:
• wearing socks and shoes in the house, but especially when walking on a wood deck, wooden playground equipment, or in the grass or garden.
• regularly checking wood decks and wooden playground equipment for deterioration and sand and stain areas that might lead to splinters.
• checking in and around the house for broken glass.
• wearing gloves when working in the garden or handling wooden items.
Go on and try out one of these home remedy solutions to remove splinters to see which one works for you.
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1. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/
2. National Institute of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5645596/