A splinter is a small piece of foreign object that enters the skin and tissue of the body. Though for most of us it may appear pretty harmless, it can quite be bothering and painful for young children. Moreover, most splinters need to be removed to prevent further swelling and infection. If your child currently has a splinter or you simply want to learn how to remove splinters in young children, here are some information that you might be interested in.
What are splinters?
Splinters, also called slivers, are fine pieces of objects that can puncture the skin and penetrate into the underlying tissues. The most common culprit is a small piece of wood coming from unfurnished wood cuttings. Small pieces of broken glass, metals or plastic, as well as plant stickers, spines and thorns may also cause splinters.
Superficial splinters, or those embedded only in the callus and surface of the skin often cause mild pain and will easily go away with the normal shedding of skin.
Deeper and more perpendicular splinters can be more painful. Since a splinter is a foreign object, the body will normally react by triggering a localized inflammatory response in the area to clear it out. In some cases, a small bleb will form and drain on its own to get rid of the splinter.
Do I need to remove a splinter?
Splinters may appear harmless, but they often cause discomfort, especially among children. Young children will often verbalize pain or feel bothered that something is stuck under their skin. The fine piece of wood may cause tenderness, swelling, and may break into smaller pieces under pressure. But on top of that, splinters create an opening in the skin and may be a portal of entry for bacteria or viruses that may cause infection. This is why it is important to remove the splinter from your child immediately or seek help when needed.
How to get a splinter out of young children
Most splinters can be easily removed at home. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove a sliver or splinter in young children. This technique is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
- Clean the area.
Once you notice a splinter, the first step is to wash the site with soap and water. This will remove any dirt or debris that may be present around the wounded area and give you a much clearer view of the splinter. Use a clean towel to gently pat it dry.
Be reminded that wood splinters tend to swell when soaked in water, so make sure that you clean the area as quickly as possible. Alternately, you may simply rub the area using a cotton ball with alcohol to clean and disinfect it prior to the removal of the splinter.
- Assess the splinter.
Check for the splinter, how deeply was it embedded, and if there is any visible or palpable part above the skin surface. This can give you a hint of what tools will you need and how you can remove the splinter from the area. In this case, a magnifying glass may come in handy to provide more visibility on your part.
- Removing a splinter that is sticking out
If a part of the foreign object is still sticking out, it can make the whole process of removal a lot easier. The most recommended tool in removing this kind of splinter is using your tweezers.
Simply disinfect the tweezers with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol and use it to pinch the visible end of the splinter. Gently pull out the splinter in the same direction that it went in. Be extra careful so that you won’t end up breaking the splinter into pieces that will be a lot harder to remove.
- How to get a deep splinter out
If the splinter is entirely embedded under your child’s skin, you’ll need to remove some of the skin first to reveal one end of the splinter.
To do this, you may use a needle that is disinfected by alcohol. Carefully pierce and remove some of the skin above the splinter to expose its end. Once possible, you can then pinch the end of the splinter with your tweezers and pull it out.
- Removing tiny plant stickers
Splinters from tiny plant stickers like the spines of a cactus and a stinging nettle may be more difficult to remove since these fine splinters may break if you will use tweezers to pull them out. In this case, the AAP recommends to use a sticky tape like a packaging or duct tape.
Cut a portion of the sticky tape enough to cover the site of splinter. Gently stick it above the splinter and then swiftly pull it up. The splinter should stick to the tape and will eventually be pulled out.
If the tape didn’t work out well, you may also use a wax hair remover. Simply dab some wax hair remover and allow to dry for around 5 minutes. If you want it to quickly dry up, you may also use a hair blow dryer. Gently peel off the dried wax. This should pull out most of the fine splinters under the skin.
- Apply petroleum jelly on the wounded site.
Petroleum jelly will help seal the wounded part of the skin and protect it from the entry of fluids and bacteria until it heals. This will help prevent swelling and infection right after the splinter was removed. Just make sure that you clean the area before putting a small amount of petroleum jelly.
- Apply anti-bacterial ointment instead of petroleum jelly.
If you have an antibacterial ointment at home, it can also be applied on the area after removing the splinter. This will minimize the risk of infection on the wounded body part.
Other Home Remedies For Splinters
The previous technique may be ideal for some, but knowing that children greatly vary in their mood, it may not be that easy to remove the splinter using a needle and tweezers all the time. So while you struggle to remove that tiny sliver from your child’s skin, here are some more techniques that may work.
If a wax hair remover isn’t available, the glue in your child’s school bag may work in similar ways. Simply place a few drops on glue on the site of splinter. Allow it to air dry, then gently pull it up with the splinter.
Nail clippers can be used for revealing deep splinters that are embedded in the calluses of the foot. Disinfect your nail clipper with alcohol, then use it to remove some callus around the splinter. You can then use your tweezers to gently pull the foreign object out of the skin.
Drawing salve or Ichthammol Ointment
This homeopathic remedy is traditionally used to draw out foreign objects that are stuck under the skin. To try this remedy, gently place a small amount of this ointment over the site of splinter, cover it with a band-aid overnight. Gently pull the band aid the next day and see if the splinter was successfully pulled out.
Baking soda paste
Another traditional home remedy to remove splinters is using baking soda paste. Mix ¼ teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of water until it forms a paste. Apply it over the splinter and cover it with band-aid. Wait for a couple of hours or overnight to completely dry the paste before pulling the band-aid.
Soaking your child’s feet or hand in Epsom salt solution may help draw out the splinter on the surface so that it can be pulled out easier.
To make a solution, dissolve a cup of this salt in warm water. You can use a basin or any vessel where you can soak your child’s foot or hand for a couple of minutes.
Otherwise, you may use a bandage with some Epsom salt in it and directly place it over the area. Leave the bandage overnight and check the next day if the splinter is more likely to be pulled out using your tweezers.
Pour some white vinegar in a bowl or basin, and then soak the affected area for around 20 to 30 minutes. The acidic properties of vinegar will help shrink the skin around and reveal the splinter so that it can be easily pulled out. After removing the splinter, wash the area with soap and water to remove any remaining vinegar.
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Important tips in treating splinters at home
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to remove splinters at home. Some may be effective while some may not work out well for your child’s splinter. We wouldn’t want risking our child’s health simply because of that tiny splinter, so here are some important reminders when treating their splinters at home.
Seek help in removing a splinter.
Young children are notorious in sitting still, even for a few minutes. So to make things a lot easier, it will be best to seek help from your partner or any other person in your household to hold your child while you remove the splinter.
Check for your child’s tetanus shot.
Tetanus is a life-threatening condition that can infect your child through deep and punctured wounds. The DTaP vaccine provides protection against this illness. Inform your doctor if your child has a deep and punctured wound and his last DTaP shot was five years ago.
Know when to call your doctor right away.
The AAP suggests that parents need to call their child’s doctor day or night in the event of the following conditions:
- The splinter is deeply embedded and can’t be removed.
- The splinter is barbed, like a fish hook.
- The pain coming from the splinter is severe and unrelieved.
- The skin around the splinter appears reddish, swollen, and oozing with pus, even after the splinter is removed.
- Your child has fever.
Splinters are often superficial and can easily be removed at home. However, if your child has deeper and punctured wounds, develops an infection, or if you are not confident to remove the splinter yourself, you can always seek help from your doctor.