How to Remove a Splinter from a Child?

It can be easy to remove a splinter from a child, as long as you know the necessary measures to take into account. Learn more.
How to Remove a Splinter from a Child?
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Written and verified by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 29 April, 2023

It may seem simple to remove a splinter from a child at home. However, one must be aware of the precautions to take both before and after it’s done. The type of splinter material, the child’s immunization schedule, and the depth of the wound are some of the factors you need to consider to avoid going to the doctor.

What is a splinter?

A splinter is a tiny piece of some material, such as metal, glass, or wood, that becomes embedded beneath the outermost layer of the skin. Splinters are most common in children, according to studies published in the American Journal of Surgery. The composition of the splinter is what will determine the reaction of the skin’s own tissues. In fact, some materials tend to be more allergenic and toxic than others.

A child looking at his foot while sitting on a wooden boardwalk.
Sometimes it can be easy to remove a splinter but other times, it may require the help of a medical specialist.

Is it dangerous to remove a splinter from a child?

The main thing at the time of the injury is to assess the severity of the injury and whether it will be possible to remove the splinter from the child at home. In some cases, it’s often so deep that it requires further handling and care.

It’s important to have knowledge or documentation of the child’s tetanus vaccination status to avoid future complications. Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria that enters the bloodstream through fresh wounds and can be fatal.

Some previous considerations to remove a splinter from a child

The most important thing is to remain calm in these situations because the child is most likely to be nervous and complain of pain or discomfort. It’s also essential to act as quickly as possible. The sooner the splinter is removed, the sooner the bad moment will be over and any further problems will be avoided.

You can even ask someone to help entertain or distract the child while the extraction is taking place.

Steps to follow to remove a splinter from a child

Foreign bodies should be removed as soon as possible to avoid causing an infection or inflammation. In fact, thorns, wood, or other items should be removed quickly, while glass, plastic, and metal can be discarded with more time.

  • Perform a correct cleaning of the splinter area with soap and water. Don’t apply excessive pressure or friction during antisepsis.
  • Numb the area to avoid discomfort and pain in the child. For this, you can use ice wrapped in a cloth and rest it for a while on the area.
  • After sterilizing a tweezer with alcohol, use it to try to grasp the distal tip of the splinter and pull it out. This must be done carefully in order to remove the foreign body completely.
  • If you were able to remove the splinter completely, you should proceed to clean the area again with soap and water. However, if it’s very deep, a needle should be used.
  • Using a needle that has been previously sterilized with alcohol, you can try to take out the splinter.
You may be interested in: How to Treat Infected Wounds in Children
A woman removing a splinter from another person's finger using a needle.
If splinters aren’t completely removed, they can cause complications such as infection, inflammation, granuloma formation, and toxic reactions.

When to go to the doctor?

Although splinter wounds are usually superficial and can be easily and quickly managed at home, there are cases that require a doctor’s intervention. Some of the recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology Association to consider medical attention are as follows:

  • It’s embedded deep in the skin.
  • It’s very large.
  • It’s not easy to remove.
  • Its location is in the eye.
  • The splinter has broken and part of it remains in the wound.
  • The presence of suppuration, inflammation, or intense pain.

The importance of asepsis to remove a splinter in a child

Splinter wounds in children are common injuries. The essential thing is to know how to treat them and how to remove the external agent without causing secondary bacterial infections. Antisepsis and disinfection, both before and after the procedure, prevent the wound from getting infected and becoming complicated. In case of doubts, always consult your family physician.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.