Splinters, thorns and prickles - for children
splinter; thorn; prickle; sliver; washing; hands; tetanus;
How to collect them
It's quite easy to collect splinters of wood or glass, thorns or prickles, if you are not thinking about what you are doing.
Have you ever found yourself:
- running your hand along a fence or a hedge?
- working in the garden without wearing gardening gloves?
- walking or running outside without looking where you are going?
- walking through the bush or tall grass?
- going barefoot where glass has been broken?
- touching the spikes of a cactus or other prickly plant?
- running around outdoors without shoes?
- using a spade or other tool with a wooden handle?
- getting your clothes or skin caught on a rose bush?
If so, chances are that at some time you have managed to collect a splinter, thorn or sliver of glass or metal.
Sometimes you can be lucky, and can slowly pull out whatever is sticking into your skin.
Unfortunately most splinters and thorns don't just stick in your skin, they slide along underneath the surface and can be pretty hard to get out. You may want to ask an adult to get the splinter out for you as it could be a bit tricky doing it yourself.
Getting them out
Get an adult to help you get the splinter out.
Before you start trying to get the splinter out it is a good idea to wash your hands and the area of the splinter with warm soapy water then pat dry with a paper towel or tissue.
You will need a pair of tweezers, disinfectant and either a sewing needle or a probe from your first aid kit. A magnifying glass could be helpful too as some splinters or prickles can be hard to see.
- Use the tweezers to grab the end of the splinter, thorn or prickle and pull slowly and gently out.
- If this doesn't work then use the blunt end of the needle to push against the end of the splinter which went in first and gently work the splinter back out enough to use the tweezers to pull it out.
- If this doesn't work, then the adult who is helping you might use the pointed end of the needle or probe to pick at the skin until the splinter can be flicked out. Be careful though – if it starts to bleed you are going too deep.
What if it won't come out?
Sometimes splinters, thorns or prickles can be really determined to stay in you!
- If you or an adult have been struggling to get the pesky thing out then you will probably need to have a rest for a while. (You may be feeling a bit sick by now!)
- If you can, stick the part of you with the splinter into warm water and a drop of disinfectant and let it soak for a while.
- Put a band aid over it so that it doesn't catch on anything and leave it alone.
- Usually the annoying thing will get pushed out by your immune system and your skin by itself in the next couple of days.
- You might check it out and put some antiseptic cream on it.
- If it starts hurting more or getting red and puffy then you may need to go to see your doctor or nurse to get it out.
- Definitely see your doctor or nurse if the splinter or thorn is under your finger or toe nail and you can't get it out.
- Some people are allergic to some plants. If you or your friend start to have trouble breathing use your puffer if you have one and get help.
- "Splinters are really annoying when they get inside your skin. Sometimes they can be really hard to get out. I usually put hot water on and a bandaid." Christian
- "I had a splinter when I was five years old. It was a metal splinter. I told mum and she pulled it out with tweezers." Amelia
- "I got a wooden splinter when I was at the beach. I put my hand on the wooden rail of the steps. I didn't notice until I picked up a crab to show mum. When I opened my hand mum saw the splinter. We washed it with salty water and mum pulled it out." Emily
- "I was in the back yard in England. My friend came over to play and I pulled a log of wood onto the grass to jump over. After the first jump I had a piece of black wood sticking out of my leg so I went inside and asked my dad to pull it out." Olivia
- "A splinter would hurt but if my mum pulled it out with a pin then it would really hurt!"
- "When I was in Deniliquin I was building a tree house. When I raised the flag I got a splinter. That was about 2 weeks ago and it still won't come out but it doesn't hurt now." Bailey
Dr Kate says
Slivers of glass or wood can usually be taken out fairly easily. Thorns and prickles can be fairly hard to get out, and are more likely to get infected.
Have you had all your tetanus shots? Before people were immunised against tetanus some of them died after getting a splinter or thorn in their skin. You could have a look at the topic Tetanus for more information about this serious illness.
(An olden days remedy was to make a paste with baking powder and a drop of water and put that on the splinter then wait for the paste to dry when sometimes it would draw out the splinter.)
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.