Whether you have a rustic table at home, a well-loved wooden block toy, or a weathered tree in the backyard, exposed wood can lead to some pretty nasty splinters in kids. Even more, a broken piece of glass, a prick from a spiky plant, or other objects such as plastic or metal with sharp slivers can be just as dangerous and painful. And with curious kiddos looking to explore the textures of objects, and climbing on everything in sight, they are definitely prone to splinters. While it can be scary and painful for kids, it is good to know that relief is usually just the right tools and a few minutes of care away. And the best part — it can often be done right at home! So, keep reading for our step-by-step guide on how to remove splinters in kids. 

Step 1: Comfort

If you’re wondering how to remove a deep splinter from a screaming child, you’re not alone! We likely all know the discomfort of a sliver under our skin. And it is impossible to remove the splinter if a child is squirming. So, start by diffusing the situation with extra comfort and care. Understand that this is likely a very new and scary experience for them. So, explain what is going on and let your little one know that you can help them feel better by removing the object for them if they sit still and follow directions. Once they calm down, you can get ready to grab the proper tools and get started!

Step 2: Assess

Keep in mind, not all splinters are created equal. Removing splinters from plants and wood is even more urgent than those from metal, glass, or plastic because they are more likely to carry bacteria that can lead to infection. While one common splinter removal method is soaking the area in warm water, avoid this tactic if the splinter is made of wood, or another material that could expand when exposed to water. Next, strategize whether removal at home is a feasible option or whether you need a pediatrician to help. For example, if the splinter is deep, under the nails, or close to the eyes, it is best to get help from a medical professional.  

Step 3: Prepare

Once you have your kiddo seated in a comfortable position with enough light, find your first-aid kit and have it close by. Check inside for tweezers, gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, and bandages—all essentials for properly removing splinters. You may also need a needle if the debris is lodged inside the skin without an edge poking out to latch onto with your tweezers. For smaller splinters, you might also want to find a magnifying glass to see the area more clearly. Next, and one of the most important steps, is to get clean. Wash your hands, and your child’s, thoroughly with warm water and soap. Clean hands and tools are essential to avoiding an infection. So be sure to sterilize your tools before use by washing them and then cleansing them a second time with rubbing alcohol.

Step 4: Remove

Now, you’re ready to start the removal. If the splinter is covered over by skin, take your sterilized needle and gently poke the skin to reveal part of the splinter, enough to reach it with your tweezers. You can also try icing the area prior, to help reduce discomfort. If a piece of the debris is visible outside of the skin, start instead with using your clean tweezers to carefully grasp the debris. Be sure to avoid squeezing the area to prevent breaking the splinter. Instead, tug gently on the splinter by pulling it straight, in the same direction that it found its way into the skin. If you have trouble with removal and after a few attempts cannot retrieve it, stop and call your pediatrician. Keep in mind, it may be too deep for you to remove on your own at home. 

Step 5: After-Care

After a successful splinter removal, it’s time to take care of the wound. Wash it thoroughly with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, and secure the area for healing with a bandage. While the object is out, that doesn’t necessarily mean your child is in the clear. Keep replacing the wound dressing daily until the area is healed. Monitor the site carefully and watch for any suspicious symptoms that could indicate an infection. This could include continued or worsening pain, heavy bleeding, swelling, redness, warmth, fever, pus, or drainage. If you recognize any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your pediatrician right away. If the splinter was deep, or if your child has not had a tetanus shot in over five years, notify your pediatrician of the injury so they can help you monitor and treat your child properly. 

At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we believe playtime and exploration is essential for kids’ mental and physical growth and health. But, of course, it is never without risk. Splinters can be a not-so-fun side effect of curiosity and play. And at times, they can be very tricky to remove! So, if you have any questions about how to remove splinters for your child, are having trouble removing splinters, or have concerns about the injury, do not hesitate to reach out to your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician for advice or treatment. To make an appointment visit us at www.coastalkids.com