Splinters are basically foreign bodies that are partially or fully embedded into the skin. Splinters are usually wood but it can also be glass, metal or plastic materials. Oftentimes, splinters should be removed by a health care professional, especially those that are embedded deeply under a toenail or fingernail.
In most cases, individuals with splinters can easily remove them without requiring medical intervention.
Always remember that splints are typically found when they penetrate the skin, usually in the foot or hand. In most cases as well as the fully embedded foreign bodies, they can provide a unique sensation. Do not forget that splinters are packed with germs. If splinters are not removed, it can lead to an infection or an allergic response.
Causes of splinters
- Thorns of plants can cause splinters to lodge into the skin while gardening.
- Handling of objects can cause a small part to dislodge as friction is applied. Good examples include metalworking, woodworking or sliding on wooden flooring.
- The foot is injured when stepping on a foreign body or sliding forward.
- Butchers can get a splinter of bone that can penetrate into the skin.
Symptoms of splinters
In most cases, a splinter can be easily recognized. The individual can feel pain and a sensation that a foreign body is embedded into the skin. Oftentimes, the individual can see the splinter embedded in the skin. There can be minimal flow of blood or no bleeding at all.
In some, they may or may not feel the splinter or the tip. For some, they could not notice the splinter at all until an infection develops. Once infection develops, the area can become reddish in color, warm, swollen and tender.
When to seek medical care
Majority of splinters can be removed easily at home with first aid measures without any complications. In some cases, the individual might need to see a doctor.
- A splinter under a fingernail is difficult to remove at home. Unless it is successfully removed, there is a high chance that it will get infected.
- For deeply embedded splinters, it would require removal by a doctor. Some splinters can be lodged in deep that it would need an anesthetic for a painless removal.
- Large splinters that can disrupt the sensation or movement have the potential to create deep puncture wounds that can embed in the tendons and nerves.
- If infection is present, it is noted with increased pain, discharge of pus, swelling and red streaking. This can indicate that the foreign body was not completely removed. Always remember that foreign bodies contain large amounts of germs. Even if the splinter is completely removed and followed with careful cleansing, infection can likely develop since the protective skin barrier was broken.
- For uncooperative patients, especially children, it can be difficult to restrain a child and remove the splinter. With this in mind, it is best to seek medical help.
- If there is an area of inflammation which was previously the site of the splinter, there might be a retained fragment left behind.
In case of serious bleeding or complications from infection linked with splinters, it is important to take the individual directly to the emergency department at the nearest hospital.
Treatment for splinters
When handling splinters, there are certain first aid measures to take into consideration.
- With a pair of tweezers, hold the protruding end of the splinter and pull it out along the direction it entered. Once removed, wash the area with water and soap.
- In some cases, the splinters can be fully embedded into the skin. You can use a small needle that is cleansed in alcohol. Clean the skin using an antiseptic. With the needle, use it to gently and partially dislodge the splinter that can be taken out entirely with tweezers. Clean the affected area using water and soap.
- Immerse in warm water with one tablespoon of baking soda. You have to perform this two times in a day. The splinter can slowly move its way out in no time.
- In case the splinter is too deep to be removed at home, it is best to seek medical care. If you only removed only a portion of the splinter and the remaining is left embedded in the skin, the doctor should be the one to remove the rest.