Splinters: When To Treat And When To Seek Urgent Care

Health & Medical Blog

At one time or another, you or your child will get a splinter, especially if you handle wood objects. While many splinters are minor and don't need treatment, some splinters can be potentially serious and require medical attention. It's not always obvious what you should do when you get a splinter, so here is a rough guide as to what to do and when you should see a doctor.

Splinters You Can Leave Alone

Tiny slivers that are just under the skin surface will usually work their way out after a while. If they're not causing any pain or irritation, you can often leave them there. However, keep an eye on the area for signs of infection. You may wish to treat them if they do not fall out after a few days. Splinters on the foot, especially, can be concerning because feet pick up a lot of dirt an bacteria.

Splinters That You Can Remove or Treat

Larger splinters that have not fully penetrated the skin and are partially poking out can be removed with tweezers cleaned with rubbing alcohol. In some cases, you may need to open up the skin to expose the splinter. People have also had success using tape to pull out the splinter or hydrogen peroxide to bring the splinter closer to the surface, but results can vary.

Splinters That are Potentially Dangerous

Splinters that fully break the skin or break into the muscle, and are causing bleeding, need emergency treatment. Do not attempt to pull out the splinter or treat the wound yourself as you may end up causing more damage. Large splinters on the feet are not only painful, but continuing to walk with them will push in the splinter further into the skin, so stay off your feet.

Avoiding Splinters in the Future

While sometimes it's hard to avoid getting a splinter, there are some basic things you can do to prevent them. Wear shoes and gloves whenever you are working or walking around wood chips or unfinished wood. Handle worn wooden objects with care as many older objects may have worn finishes and exposed wood that could splinter.

While most splinters are harmless and won't cause an irritation or infection, some can be dangerous. Any time you get a foreign object in the skin, be careful about deciding whether you should remove it and treat the wound yourself. If a foreign object breaks the skin, and you remove it yourself, make sure you have a doctor check for infection and for a tetanus shot, if needed. If the object is large, and your regular doctor is not available, then visit an urgent care center for help.


10 December 2018