It happens when you least expect it: maybe you’re taking a stroll on a pier and you grab the wooden handrail; or maybe you’re building a wooden deck in your backyard; one minute everything is fine, and then suddenly you feel a shooting pain. You just got a splinter. Getting a splinter may not exactly be a traumatic experience, but it definitely can be annoying and painful. And while there isn’t a lot of genuine danger in getting a splinter, it can become infected if not removed in a timely manner. But how do you remove a splinter?
How to Remove a Splinter
As with all injuries in life, getting a splinter is a lot faster than removing a splinter. It can take a split second for the little sliver of wood to get lodged in your skin, but it requires a bit more patience (and maybe even a magnifying glass) and time to reverse the process. For adults, a splinter is usually a mild inconvenience; for children, though, a splinter can be a harrowing ordeal. The good news is that there are several creative methods to remove a splinter that will quickly bring relief for you—or for your child. Below are some examples:
- Tweezers: A classic in splinter removal, a pair of tweezers can be your best friend when the circumstances are right. Regardless of how deep the splinter is, if enough of it protrudes from the surface of your skin, you should be able to pluck it right out. This is a generally less effective method if very little of the splinter is protruding or if it’s skinny enough to preclude getting a good grip on it.
- Toenail Clippers: For thicker wooden splinters, or for other materials like metal, nail clippers can be quite effective. Assuming that the splinter is also protruding from the skin, nail clippers can be used in place of tweezers to grab hold of the splinter and yank it out. But the sharp edge on nail clippers can also be used to make a small cut in the skin along the length of the splinter; if it isn’t too deeply embedded, you should be able to cut the skin just enough to access the splinter without actually causing your skin to bleed.
- Needle: For splinters that are a little deeper, a small needle can be used to essentially pry one part of the splinter up and out past the surface of the skin. After making sure to sterilize the needle before using it, gently poke a hole in the skin directly over the end of the splinter that is closest to the surface. Then use the needle to pry the splinter up and out; once enough of the splinter is outside of the skin, you should be able to use tweezers (or even possibly your fingernails) to remove the rest of the splinter.
- Tape: Sometimes a very tiny splinter may even be slightly sticking out of the skin, but tweezers aren’t fine enough to get a grip. In these cases, tape can be used instead. Simply take a small piece of tape (probably something like duct tape with a little more stickiness than scotch tape) and press it onto the splinter. Wait for a few minutes to let the adhesive do its work, and then pull it off; the tape should bring the splinter with it.
- Glue: This works on the same basic principle as tape; pour a little glue (the same kind of white glue you might use for a science project) over the area and wait for it to dry. Then peel it off and the splinter should get pulled along with it. As with the tape, this is generally more effective for splinters that are small and have some protrusion from the skin’s surface.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: For a less violent approach to splinter removal, hydrogen peroxide is a good option. When poured over the area with the splinter, the peroxide will begin to bubble (which happens because of a reaction to the enzyme catalase that is released by the body after damage to the skin); this bubbling reaction can actually get under the splinter and push it to the surface. In some cases, the peroxide alone can lift out the splinter; in other cases, you might still need to reach for the tweezers to complete the procedure.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda can have a similar effect as hydrogen peroxide, though you’ll need a little more patience to have it work effectively. If a splinter is especially deep, you can make a paste with baking soda and water and apply it to the affected area. Then, cover it with a bandaid or bandage and wait about a day; the paste should move the splinter closer to the surface of the skin.
- Epsom Salt: This versatile substance can be used for all manner of ailments, and its list of uses includes removing splinters. After dissolving some salts in warm water, soak the splinter-ridden skin in the water for around 10 minutes; the briny water can help draw the splinter to the surface and make it much easier to extract.
- Oil/Vinegar: If you don’t have Epsom salt readily available, you can also soak the affected skin in oil or vinegar for 20-30 minutes; both substances can help draw the splinter to the surface.
- Fruits/Vegetables: As weird as it may sound, there is evidence that certain fruits and vegetables can actually help remove a splinter. Both onions and potatoes can potentially work: similar to the baking soda paste, cut a very small slice of either food and use a bandaid to affix it to the skin; after a day (or overnight), the splinter should be closer to the surface. Amazingly, banana peels can also be used in the same way.
With all of these DIY methods, it’s important to use good first aid habits and make sure the area is clean before and after whichever method you choose. Since a splinter is actually a foreign object breaking the skin, it’s entirely possible for bleeding or infection to occur. To address this, it’s a good idea to keep rubbing alcohol or antibiotic ointment handy.
Do I Need Medical Attention?
Obviously splinters are not a serious concern, so any of the home remedies should work quickly to solve your splinter problems. In some rare cases, however, a deep or large splinter, if left alone, can actually become infected and potentially cause other problems. If you have a pretty bad splinter that you’re not able to remove on your own, or if there are signs of infection, you can always stop by one of TrustCare’s convenient locations to have one of our skilled medical professionals provide excellent health care.