A splinter is any foreign body that is partly or fully embedded in the skin. The usual splinters are wood but glass, metal and plastic can also be considered as one. Oftentimes, splinters should be removed by a healthcare professional, especially those that are deeply driven under a toenail or fingernail. In most cases, splinters can be removed without requiring medical care.
What are the causes?
- Holding an object might cause a small portion to dislodge as friction is applied on the object.
- Thorns of plants can cause splinters to be driven into the skin while gardening.
- The foot might be injured upon stepping on a foreign body or walking on a rough wooden deck or boardwalk.
- In most cases, a splinter is obvious. The individual feels pain and a sensation that a foreign object is embedded into the skin.
- Oftentimes, the individual can see the splinter in or beneath the skin. There is minimal bleeding or no bleeding at all.
- The individual may or might not feel the splinter or its tip. Sometimes, the splinter is not even noticed not until an infection develops. If infection occurs, the area becomes swollen, reddened, tender and warm.
When to seek medical care
In most cases, a splinter can be easily removed without causing any complications. In some instances, there is a need to consult a doctor.
- A splinter beneath the fingernail is usually difficult to remove at home. Remember that unless the splinter is removed, it can end up infected.
- Deep splinters require removal by a healthcare professional. Some might be driven deeply that only an injection of anesthesia ensures a painless removal.
- An infection is indicated by drainage of pus, intensifying pain, red streaks and swelling. This might indicate that a foreign body was not entirely removed. Remember that all foreign bodies have large amounts of microorganisms. Even if completely removed and thoroughly cleansed, infection can still occur since the protective skin barrier is impaired.
- Large-sized splinters that disrupt with movement or sensation increases the risk for creating deep puncture wounds that can involve the tendons and nerves.
- When dealing with children, it might be difficult to restrain the child and get rid of the foreign object. In such cases, it is best to seek medical care.
- If a previous site of a splinter becomes inflamed, it might still have a leftover fragment.
For cases that involves significant bleeding or complications from infection, it is best to bring the individual to the nearest emergency department for proper treatment.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on splinter removal is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly deal with splinters, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Red Deer, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.