Ouch – I have a splinter!

Splinters are an annoying part of life. So I hope to give you some helpful tips and advice on how to treat them and what to look out for.

Splinters happen when a sharp, thin object – such as wood, glass, plant spikes – gets into your skin; most commonly in one of your toes or fingers.

Getting rid of a splinter

What is the best way to treat to remove a splinter without making it worse?

  1. Firstly, clean the wound and the tweezers you plan to use with soap and water or an antiseptic liquid, thoroughly.
  2. Make sure that you can see the splinter clearly, using a magnifying glass if needed, and ensure good light. If the splinter is sticking out of the skin, try to get a firm grip on the end, and slowly and gently pull the splinter out in the same direction and angle that the splinter went in.
  3. If the end of the splinter is not sticking out, then use a clean, sharp needle to scrape the skin away from the splinter. Once the end is exposed, pull out as suggested above.
  4. Then wash the wound again, apply with an antiseptic cream and cover with a plaster.

Other useful tips can be to try applying Cello tape to the splinter, and then removing it in the direction of entry – sometimes this will pull it out. It works well if the splinters are very fine, like from a plant. If trying to remove a splinter from a child, numbing the area with an ice cube beforehand can be a good idea.

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When do you need to see your doctor?

If any of the following happen, then stop trying to fix it yourself and see your doctor for help:

  • The splinter is too deep for you to remove or there is a lot of bleeding.
  • There are any signs of infection, such as redness, pain, pus drainage, pain or fever.
  • The splinter is near to or involves the eye, or is under a nail.

Prevention is always better than cure, so remember that unvarnished wood, spiny or furred plants, rough-skinned fruits like pineapples or thorny fruits, such as prickly pears, should be handled with care.

Dr Ingrid de Beer for HelloDoctor.com