Splinters are pieces of wood, glass, metal, or other matter that get caught under the skin. Splinters tend to hurt if they are stuck deep under the skin. Those near the top of the skin are usually painless. Remove splinters so they don’t cause an infection.


  • Wear shoes out-of-doors at all times and whenever you walk on unfinished floors.
  • Sand, varnish, and/or paint handrails to keep from getting splinters in the hands.
  • Clean up all broken glass and metal shavings around the house. Be careful when you handle broken glass. Wear hard-soled shoes when glass has been broken.
  • Wear work gloves when you handle plants with thorns, sharp tips, or spines.

Make sure tetanus shots are up-to-date. (See “Immunization Schedule” on page 18.) Check with your doctor or health department.

Questions to Ask

For Children and Adults:

Are these signs present?

  • Fever, swollen lymph nodes and red streaks spreading from the splinter towards the heart

Yes: Seek Emergency Care


Are any of these signs present?

  • The wound shows signs of infection such as pus, puffiness, or redness.
  • The splinter is still embedded in the skin, you cannot get it out and it is painful

Yes: See Doctor

Is the splinter deeply embedded in the skin, you cannot get it out and you have diabetes?
Yes: See Doctor

For Children Only:

Has the child missed any Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis,
(DTaP or DTP) vaccinations which should have been given at these times?

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • Between 15 and 18 months
  • Between 4 and 6 years
  • Between 11 and 16 years

Yes: Call Doctor

Is your child running a temperature of 101¡F or more?
Yes: Call Doctor

For Adults Only:

Was your last tetanus shot more than ten years ago? If the splinter is deeply imbedded, was your last tetanus shot more than five years ago?
Yes: Call Doctor

Provide Self-Care

Self-Care Tips

  • To remove the splinter:
    • Wash your hands, but don’t let the area around a wooden splinter get wet. A wooden splinter that gets wet will swell. This will make it harder to remove.
    • Sterilize tweezers. Place the tips in a flame. Wipe off the blackness on the tips with sterile gauze if you use a lit match for the flame.
    • Use the tweezers to gently pull the part of the splinter that sticks out through the skin. It should slide right out. If necessary, use a magnifying glass to help you see close up.
    • If the splinter is buried under the skin, sterilize a needle and gently slit the skin over one end of the splinter. Then, use the needle to lift that end and pull the splinter out with the tweezers.
    • Check to see that all of the splinter has been removed. If not, repeat the above step.
    • If you still can’t get the splinter out, soak the skin around the splinter in a solution made with 1 tablespoon of baking soda mixed in 1 cup of warm water. Do this 2 times a day. After a few days, the splinter may work its way out.
    • Once the splinter is removed, clean the wound by washing it with soap and water. Blot it dry with a clean cloth or sterile gauze pad. Apply a sterile bandage.
    • To remove a large number of close-to-the-surface splinters, such as cactus spines, apply a layer of hair removing wax, facial gel, or white glue, such as Elmer’s, to the skin. Let it dry for 5 minutes. Gently peel it off by lifting the edges of the dried wax, gel, or glue with tweezers. The splinter(s) should come up with it.
    • Contact your doctor if you still have the splinter(s) after using Self-Care Tips.
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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021