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Splinters (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

Most splinters are easily removed at home without complications. On occasion, the person may need to see a doctor.

  • A splinter under a fingernail may be impossible to remove at home. Unless removed, it almost always becomes infected.
  • Very deep splinters may require removal by a doctor. Some splinters may be lodged so deeply that only an anesthetic injection allows for a painless removal.
  • Infection is usually noted with discharge (pus), increased pain, redness, swelling, or red streaking. This could be a sign that a foreign body has not been fully removed. All foreign bodies contain large amounts of germs. Even with complete removal and adequate cleansing, infection may still develop because the protective skin barrier was broken.
  • Large splinters that interfere with sensation or movement have the potential for creating deep puncture wounds, which may embed in nerves and tendons (and even blood vessels).
  • With uncooperative patients, such as children, it may be difficult to restrain a child and remove a splinter. If this is the case, seek medical help.
  • An area of inflammation, which was previously the site of a splinter, may be a retained fragment.

For serious bleeding or complications from infection associated with splinters or deep puncture wounds, go to a hospital's emergency department.

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