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Removing a Splinter

If you’re a joiner (or other occupation that works with timber), then getting a wooden splinter is an occupational hazard.

If you leave the splinter and do nothing, then it will eventually become infected and may become uncomfortable, if not painful. How soon it becomes infected depends on a lot of things, from the type of timber the splinter is from (the timber Greenheart, for instance, can become infected quite quickly resulting in blood poisoning, as well as the Greenheart splinter wound turning septic, there is also risk of secondary infections due to fungi and bacteria) to how clean the timber you were using is. So here we look at a couple of ways of removing a splinter.

So what’s the best way to remove a splinter?

If you can grab the end of the splinter with a pair of tweezers then do so and pull it out!

If the splinter has gone in side on (i.e. you can see the full length of it under the skin), then it should not present too much of a problem to remove.

To start with, using a pair of tweezers (below left), try and grab the end of the splinter and pull the splinter out the way it went in; this way is far easier as it’s already made some kind of opening in your skin. If you can see the end of the splinter within an open wound, but it’s not protruding, then give the area around the splinter a tight squeeze (i.e. squeeze the splinter out as shown below); this quite often is all that is needed to make the splinter protrude.

Most splinters can be removed this way if the end of the splinter is protruding slightly from your skin.
If none of the timber is protruding from your skin, then using a clean pin (or in my case the point of a Stanley knife blade or chisel! Shown below) gently open the skin up at the very end of the splinter, again from the side that the splinter went in. Once you’ve opened up the skin around the splinter, get your tweezers and have a go at gently pulling it out, being careful not to snap or break the splinter. If using a pin (or similar) to open the skin up, then do make sure it is clean; you can hold the pin in a flame to sterilise it, being careful not to burn yourself, obviously!

If the splinter is not protruding, give it a squeeze – this often is enough to get the end showing.
If it still doesn’t show, then gently try and lift the skin around the splinter with a pin or knife blade – be careful though!

If you do manage to get the complete splinter out, then give the area either a wipe with an alcohol swab or rub in some antiseptic cream to clean the wound, then cover with a plaster to keep anything else out.

All of the methods mentioned above should be used with care; if you are in doubt in what you are doing, then please seek professional medical help, either from your Doctor or A&E Department.

Still cannot remove that splinter?

If you’ve half-removed the splinter and some of it remains, or you just cannot get it out (if you can only see the end of the splinter and it’s gone straight in, rather than side on, then these can be difficult to remove easily) then you’re going to need to give it a helping hand!

Magnesium sulphate to remove splinters

Once you’ve got the end of the splinter exposed, get hold of some Magnesium Sulphate; this is available from most chemists, though you may have to ask for it, as it’s normally kept behind the counter.

Once opened, give the magnesium sulphate a good stir; I normally use the handle of a teaspoon, but you can use anything so long as it’s clean, and then apply it to the area where the splinter is, making sure you’ve got even coverage over the end of the splinter.

Once this is done, stick a plaster over it and leave it.

If the Magnesium Sulphate is working, then you should be able to feel it pulling at the splinter; you’ll need to apply it about twice daily (i.e. stick some on just before you go to bed.

Next morning, see if the splinter has moved at all; if it has, try and remove it; if not, or you still cannot remove the splinter, then stick some more Magnesium Sulphate on) until you can see the splinter protruding from your skin. (If after three days, it still hasn’t come out, we advise you seek medical advice). Once it’s sticking out again, use the tweezers to remove the splinter. As before, once you’ve extracted the splinter, give it a wipe with an alcohol swab, or rub some antiseptic cream in, and cover for a few days with a plaster.

If you’ve still got the splinter then give Magnesium Sulphate a try!

You still cannot remove your splinter?

You won’t be able to remove all splinters yourself. If you’ve followed the above steps and still cannot remove the wooden splinter then seek medical help; if you don’t remove the splinter, and it doesn’t come out by itself, then it ultimately will become infected, and in some cases, you will start to feel ‘under the weather’ as the infection increases.

An unusual splinter

As I’ve already mentioned, not all splinters will come out easily. A friend, who is also a Joiner at another company, recently had to have a splinter out under local anesthetic; the splinter went into his little finger and through the knuckle joint (it was actually sticking out both sides of his finger!), meaning no amount of pulling with tweezers or applying Magnesium Sulphate would shift it. This is not a common occurrence, but it can happen!

All of the methods mentioned above should be used with care; if you are in doubt in what you are doing, then please seek professional medical help, either from your Doctor or local A&E Department.

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