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Symptoms and Signs of Splinters

Doctor's Notes on Splinters

Splinters are foreign bodies that are partially or fully embedded in the skin. Splinters are usually small pieces of wood but can be any type of material. They are caused by any type of activity or handling materials that have the potential to dislodge pieces with friction. Examples of activities that may cause splinters include woodworking, gardening, metalworking, or walking on a rough wood surface.

Splinters may not cause symptoms. If they do, the signs and symptoms associated with a splinter include a visible foreign object beneath the top layer of the skin, pain and tenderness at the affected site, and the feeling of having a foreign body stuck in the skin. If an infection develops at the site of a splinter, the area may become red, swollen, and warm to the touch.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 4/8/2019

Splinters Symptoms

Usually, a splinter is fairly obvious. The person feels pain, and a sense that a foreign body is embedded in the skin. Often, the individual can see the splinter in or under the skin. The person may have only a small flow of blood or no bleeding at all. They may or may not be able to feel the splinter or a tip of it. Sometimes, the splinter is not noticed at all until an infection develops. Then, the area becomes red, swollen, warm, and tender.

Splinters Causes

  • Handling an object may cause a small portion to dislodge as the person applies friction to that object (examples would be woodworking, metalworking, or falling and sliding on wooden floors).
  • The protective thorns of plants may cause splinters to lodge in the skin while gardening.
  • Butchers may end up with a small splinter of bone penetrating their skin.
  • The foot is usually injured when a person steps on a foreign body or slides forward (some examples would be walking on a rough wooden deck or boardwalk or stepping on shards of glass).

8 First Aid Kit Essentials for Scrapes, Cuts, Bug Bites, and More in Pictures Slideshow

8 First Aid Kit Essentials for Scrapes, Cuts, Bug Bites, and More in Pictures Slideshow

Tweezers are an essential part of any first aid kit, particularly if you enjoy hiking or other outdoor activities. The safest way to remove a splinter or a tick is with a clean pair of tweezers. Disinfect the tweezers well before and after each use.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.