Splinters in Children

What is a splinter?

A splinter is a sharp sliver of wood, glass, or other debris that is lodged underneath the skin. Removal of small, shallow splinters can usually be done at home.

First aid for splinters

To take care of splinters:

  • Calm your child and let them know that you can help.

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with clean, running water and soap.

  • Clean the area around the splinter with soap and water.

  • Sterilize a needle or tweezers with rubbing alcohol.

  • If part of the splinter is sticking out of the skin, gently try to pull out the splinter using the sterilized tweezers.

  • If the splinter is close to the surface but under the skin, gently prick the skin over the splinter with the needle. Then try to pull it out using the tweezers. You can apply ice wrapped in a thin cloth to the area for 2 minutes before attempting this. This will gently numb the area and make the removal less painful. It will also make the removal easier since your child will be more likely to remain still.

  • If the splinter is deeply embedded or you are unable to remove it after one or two tries, call your child's healthcare provider.

  • Once the splinter is removed, clean the area with soap and water and apply a light coating of petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment. Keep the area covered with a bandage until it heals.
  • Watch the area for signs of infection. These include increased warmth, swelling, redness, fluid leaking, or pain. If you see any signs of infection, call your child's healthcare provider. Your child may need antibiotics.

  • If the splinters are very small, painless, and shallow, know that you can leave them alone. Over time, they will make their way out of the skin.