Symptoms and Signs of Splinters

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/12/2022

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.

What Is the Treatment for Splinters?

Splinters may be removed at home using sterilized (wipes with alcohol) needles or tweezers. Splinters that are located in or near the eye should be managed by a health care professional. Splinters that are deeply embedded or located beneath a nail may be removed by a health care practitioner under local anesthesia. Antibiotics may be given if there is a likelihood of infection. A tetanus shot may also be necessary.


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