3 Plus Ways to Remove a Splinter from a Child

remove a splinter

Children have a natural tendency to explore with all of their senses, and that includes touching and feeling everything in sight. Combine that with a lot of barefoot excursions and they’re bound to get a splinter at some point in their childhood. If you’re wondering how to remove a splinter from your child’s hand or foot, here are some safe tips from Hospitality Health ER.

Do I Need to Remove a Splinter if It’s Not Bothering My Child?

Because the splinter itself is most likely unsterile and can cause an infection, you should remove it. Even very small splinters can cause problems like inflammation or a small infection. If you’re scared about hurting your child while trying to remove a splinter, take them to a doctor who will be able to remove it safely.

How Do I Remove a Splinter?

Most wood splinters and small objects like a tiny piece of glass can be removed at home. Here’s how:

#1 Wash your hands before touching anything.

#2 Sterilize tweezers and a needle in some alcohol. If you don’t have alcohol at hand, you can sterilize them with fire from a match or stove top. Let them cool before you use them.

#3 Wash your hands again before treating your child.

#4 Clean the affected area of skin with warm, soapy water. For wood splinters, do not soak the area for too long — this can cause the wood splinter to swell.

#5 If possible, have another adult hold your child so that they can minimize movement while you take out the splinter. If that’s not possible, hold your child on your lap to comfort them and ease their fears.

#6 If part of the splinter is sticking out of the skin, it should be fairly easy to remove. Using the tweezers, grasp the visible part of the splinter gently and pull it straight out. Don’t move it around or pick at it because this may cause a piece to break off, leaving another piece inside the skin.

If the splinter is totally embedded in the skin, use a needle to help remove it. Disinfect a needle with alcohol, and use it to gently create a small slit in the skin right above the splinter. Carefully remove the splinter with the tweezers, pulling it out at the same angle it went into your skin. 

#7 After you remove the splinter, wash the whole area again thoroughly with soap and warm water. Apply antibiotic ointment and an adhesive bandage to prevent infection. Watch for any signs of infection like redness, swelling, pain, or pus coming from the splinter site over the next few days.

What if I Can’t Get the Splinter?

Often it may be difficult to grab hold of the splinter. Here are a couple of home remedies you can try to bring the splinter closer to the surface of your skin:

#1. Vinegar: Try soaking the affected area in vinegar for at least ten to fifteen minutes. You can use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Because vinegar is acidic, it can shrink the skin around the splinter and bring the splinter closer to the surface. 

#2 Baking soda: You can also make a baking soda paste by mixing a little baking soda and water together. Apply the mixture to the affected area. Cover the area with a bandage for about 24 hours. Once the baking soda solution has pulled the splinter to the surface, you can pull it out with tweezers. 

How to Remove a Splinter with Tape or Glue:

If your child is scared of a needle or the tweezers, you can try using tape or glue. However, these methods will only work if part of the splinter is sticking out.

#1. Apply the tape to the area with the splinter. 

#2. Press the tape firmly and manipulate the skin around the splinter to get the splinter to stick to the tape.

#3. Once you see that the splinter is stuck to the tape, gently pull the tape from the skin. The splinter should come up as you remove the tape.

#4. Repeat these steps as needed.

Glue can also be used to help remove the splinter in much the same way:  

#1. Apply Elmer’s glue to the splinter area.

#2, Allow the glue to dry and stick to the splinter.

#3. Peel off the glue and the splinter should come out as you lift the glue away from the skin.

What Happens if I Do Not Remove the Splinter?

Because wood is a natural material, it is prone to bacteria and fungi, which can cause an infection. When foreign objects like splinters enter the body, your immune system reacts defensively by inflaming the skin around it. Common infections caused by splinters include: 

#1 Staphylococcus which is marked by fever, chills and streaks on the skin.

#2 Tetanus which causes symptoms including jaw tightness, stiff muscles, and fever. 

When You Should Go to the ER for a Splinter

It may sound crazy to have to go to the ER for a splinter, but it does happen in certain circumstances. You definitely should seek immediate care if you notice any signs of infection, like yellow or white discharge from the affected area, or red, hardened skin. You also may need a doctor’s help if the splinter is lodged deep in the skin, has entered in a hard-to-reach area like under a nail, or is located in a delicate area like near an eye.

For more children’s first aid tips, read our blog about the BRAT diet for diarrhea and vomiting, or like us on Facebook as we share all our latest first aid tips.