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Thorns in skin: Splinters and Other Foreign Bodies in the Skin

Splinters and Other Foreign Bodies in the Skin

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Health Issues

Health Issues


  • A foreign body (FB) (eg, splinter, fishhook, sliver of glass) is embedded in the skin.

Symptoms of a Foreign Body in the Skin

  • Pain: Most tiny slivers (eg, cactus spine) in the superficial skin do not cause much pain. Deeper or perpendicular FBs are usually painful to pressure. FBs in the foot are very painful with weight bearing.
  • FB Sensation: Older children may report the sensation of something being in the skin (“I feel something there”).

Types of Foreign Bodies

  • Wood/Organic FBs: Splinters, cactus spines, thorns, toothpicks.
  • Metallic FBs: Bullets, BBs, nails, sewing needles, pins, tacks.
  • Fiberglass spicules.
  • Fishhooks: May have a barbed point that makes removal difficult.
  • Glass.
  • Pencil lead (graphite).
  • Plastic FBs.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (Night or Day) If

  • Deeply embedded FB (eg, needle or toothpick in foot)
  • FB has a barb (eg, fishhook)
  • FB is a BB
  • FB is causing severe pain
  • You are reluctant to take out FB
  • You can’t remove FB
  • Site of sliver removal looks infected (redness, red streaks, swollen, pus)
  • Fever occurs

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (Between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Deep puncture wound and last tetanus shot was more than 5 years ago

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Tiny, superficial, pain-free slivers that don’t need removal
  • Tiny plant stickers, cactus spines, or fiberglass spicules that need removal
  • Minor sliver, splinter, or thorn that needs removal and you think you can remove it

Home Care Advice for Minor Slivers

  1. Tiny, Pain-Free Slivers: If superficial slivers are numerous, tiny, and pain free, they can be left in. Eventually they will work their way out with normal shedding of the skin, or the body will reject them by forming a little pimple that will drain on its own.
  2. Tiny Painful Plant Stickers: Plant stickers (eg, stinging nettle), cactus spines, or fiberglass spicules are difficult to remove because they are fragile. Usually they break when pressure is applied with tweezers.
  • Tape: First try to remove the small spines or spicules by touching the area lightly with packaging tape, duct tape, or another very sticky tape. If that doesn’t work, try wax hair remover.
  • Wax Hair Remover: If tape doesn’t work, apply a layer of wax hair remover. Let it air-dry for 5 minutes or accelerate the process with a hair dryer. Then peel it off with the spicules. Most will be removed. The others will usually work themselves out with normal shedding of the skin.
  • Needle and Tweezers: For large slivers or thorns, remove with a needle and tweezers.
    • Check the tweezers beforehand to be certain the ends (pickups) meet exactly (if they do not, bend them). Sterilize the tools with rubbing alcohol.
    • Cleanse the skin surrounding the sliver briefly with rubbing alcohol before trying to remove it. If you don’t have any, use soap and water but don’t soak the area if FB is wood (Reason: can cause swelling of the splinter).
    • Use the needle to completely expose the large end of the sliver. Use good lighting. A magnifying glass may help.
    • Then grasp the end firmly with the tweezers and pull it out at the same angle that it went in. Getting a good grip the first time is especially important with slivers that go in perpendicular to the skin or those trapped under the fingernail.
    • For slivers under a fingernail, sometimes a wedge of the nail must be cut away with fine scissors to expose the end of the sliver.
    • Superficial horizontal slivers (where you can see all of it) usually can be removed by pulling on the end. If the end breaks off, open the skin with a sterile needle along the length of the sliver and flick it out.
  • Antibiotic Ointment: Wash the area with soap and water before and after removal. To reduce the risk of infection, apply an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed) once after removal.
  • Call Your Doctor If
    • You can’t get it all out.
    • Removed but pain becomes worse.
    • Starts to look infected.
    • Your child becomes worse.

    And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the “Call Your Doctor” symptoms.

    Last Updated



    My Child Is Sick! Expert Advice for Managing Common Illnesses and Injuries (Copyright © 2011 Barton D. Schmitt, MD, FAAP)

    The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

    How to remove a splinter

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    description, symptoms, causes and effective methods of removal

    A spinous is a wart that most often forms on the palms, feet, fingers and toes. The neoplasm, although it has a benign nature, is extremely painful. The sharp pain that occurs when pressure is applied to it is comparable to a sharp prick of a medical needle or a metal spike.

    We will tell you in detail below why the spines appear and how to deal with them.

    Human papillomavirus provokes the development of various benign neoplasms and skin growths on the face, body and extremities of people. Warts, including thorns, are a manifestation of one of the many strains of HPV; under certain conditions, they can appear in any infected person. In this case, neither the sex nor the age of the infected do not matter.

    When the spine first appears, it is a small rough patch of white or pale yellow skin. After some time, this area becomes denser, grows and turns into a well-defined skin growth. During this period, it is easy to confuse it with dry corn or corns, but unlike them, the spike has deep thread-like roots that grow into the nerve endings. This explains the resulting pain.

    How to distinguish a spinule from other neoplasms?

    Thorn is easy to identify by the following features:

    • Sharp, intense pain when pressed;
    • Itching and burning around the growth;
    • Heterogeneous and rough surface of the growth with rough skin around the edge;
    • Black dots on the surface are the roots of the spines that go deep into the tissues.

    Also, a clear difference between the spine and other similar growths can be seen in the photographs below.

    Why do spines appear?

    According to statistics, every 5th inhabitant on the planet is infected with HPV. The virus, penetrating the skin through microtrauma, changes the genetic structure of cells. This leads to the fact that the infected cell loses its natural properties, begins to divide uncontrollably, forming tumors and growths, a particular manifestation of which are warts, including spines.

    You can learn more about how the human papillomavirus behaves in a separate article “Human papillomavirus”. Here we will only add that HPV often “sleeps” in cells. And “wakes up” only when the body experiences increased stress.

    In addition, the following factors can provoke the development of thorns:

    • wearing tight and narrow shoes;
    • flat feet;
    • overweight;
    • excessive sweating of feet and hands;
    • injuries and damage to the skin;
    • contact with an HPV carrier.

    Effective treatment of thorn

    Let’s note right away: traditional methods of treating thorn are ineffective. This is due to the fact that almost all home remedies that are used to remove skin growths are topical. That is, they affect only the surface of the neoplasm. A spike is a wart with deep roots sprouted to the nerves.

    It turns out that even if you manage to burn or remove the body of the wart, you will not get rid of the pain, and the growth will appear again after a while. That is why it is advisable to treat the spikelet with a specialist.

    This is how a spike looks like

    Modern medicine offers several topical and effective methods for removing various types of skin growths:

    • Electrocoagulation – removal using high frequency electric current. The procedure completely burns out the spike and destroys the roots. But she has one significant drawback – high trauma. Electric current affects not only the neoplasm body, but also the surrounding tissues. This can cause scarring on damaged areas of the skin.
    • Cryodestruction – treatment of skin growth with liquid nitrogen. This method involves deep freezing of the spike and its roots. It is quite effective and less traumatic than electrocoagulation, but it is difficult for a doctor to control the depth of freezing. Therefore, in order to eliminate the risk of damage to surrounding tissues, the doctor treats the neoplasm in a dosed manner. And often, nitrogen is not enough to completely destroy the spike – the procedure has to be repeated.
    • Laser coagulation of the spine is a topical and very common method of removing neoplasms. The laser acts precisely and delicately, the doctor can easily control the intensity and depth of exposure to laser radiation. After the procedure, the treated area is covered with a dark crust, which disappears within a few days.

    You can read more about the procedure for laser removal of neoplasms on the corresponding page.

    Prevention of spinal cord

    The appearance and development of spinal cord can be prevented. To do this, it is enough to follow simple recommendations every day:

    • observe personal hygiene;
    • wash your hands and feet thoroughly;
    • if your feet sweat a lot, wash your shoes and put on clean socks every day;
    • after bathing or showering, lubricate hands and feet with skin care cream;
    • protect the skin from mechanical damage;
    • eat right and take more vitamins.

    How to remove splinters and thorns from the skin: some information

    It occurs mainly on the hands – especially on the fingers, mainly on the thumb – when we grab a fruit or a prickly object, and on the thighs when we sit on old wooden benches which, under our weight, shatter into fragments.


    Removing splinters and thorns from the skin

    What is the best way to remove thorns and splinters?

    The first thing to do if a splinter or thorn gets on your skin is to rinse the affected area thoroughly with cool running water.

    Then dry and disinfect the affected area so that an unwanted object inserted under the skin does not cause an infection.

    Then, first of all, clean and disinfect the place where the splinter or thorn has entered, whether it is made of wood or any other material.

    After that, you need to think about how to extract it. How to do it?

    Observe the situation.

    If the thorn or splinter has an outer part, the ideal solution is to use regular makeup tweezers that have been washed and sanitized to carefully remove the foreign body so that it does not break.

    This may hurt a little, but only for a few seconds.

    If ​​splinters hit the skin

    A piece of wood or a thorn, such as from a rose or cactus, may break during removal with tweezers.

    In this case, it is recommended to use a needle disinfected with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and carefully create a space to remove the last thorn under the skin.

    After disinfection, simply cover with plaster and wait two days for the situation to return to normal.

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    When wood chips get stuck in your thighs

    When wearing skirts and shorts, a piece of wood can easily get stuck in your thigh when you sit on old benches or wooden objects.

    In this case, the extraction operation can be more delicate, given the thinner skin (compared to, for example, the thickness of the hands) and the fact that our weight can facilitate the penetration of a splinter.