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Tips and tricks for easily removing splinters in your fingers
Splinters in the finger annoy, hurt and can lead to infections. This includes a wide variety of materials: wood and metal splinters, glass, or thorns from plants such as blackberries, roses or hawthorn. In the following article we show which tricks and home remedies can be used to remove a splinter from your finger and what you should pay attention to.
In the long run, some activities almost inevitably lead to splinters in the fingers. This is especially true when working with wood. Softwood generally splinters more than hardwood. Carpenters, carpenters or workers in the sawmill constantly come into contact with wood chips that result from sawing and planing. Fine sanding makes them even smaller, more pointed and therefore more difficult to remove when they penetrate the skin.
Even those who handle antique wooden furniture will sooner or later get splinters on the old wood, as will moving companies. Therefore, professionals in these areas mostly work with gloves.
Another risk group are gardeners, also amateur gardeners, who often do not prepare adequately. On the one hand, small thorns get into the skin without gardening gloves and sturdy clothes when gardeners remove blackberry tendrils or cut rose bushes. On the other hand, gardening offers a wide range of splinters in the wood - starting with rotten planks in garden huts, splitting logs for the stove, building a bird feeder with branches from your own garden or creating a raised bed with the remains of the felled pine.
Metal chips are created when working with metal. While the body attacks iron and wood splinters as foreign bodies and these are excreted through suppuration, this does not apply to splinters made of non-ferrous metal such as aluminum or brass. A doctor should definitely remove these, as they wax in easily and then lead to permanent inflammation and pain.
Remove splinters with home remedies
We usually try to get a splinter out of the skin with a sterilized needle and tweezers, but there are many other methods that we can use at home.
The bottle at your fingertip
Is the foreign body close to a fingertip? Then you can fill a bottle with hot but not boiling water so that about 1 cm remains free. Then press the fingertip with the splinter into the bottle neck. The heat comes out of the skin.
Patches with salicylic acid
You can get salicylic acid from the pharmacy and apply it to a patch. Stick this on the place where the splinter has penetrated. The acid ensures that it comes closer to the surface of the skin, where you can remove it with a needle and tweezers.
If the splinter is still visible, you can try to remove it with strong adhesive tape. Normal scotch tape is not enough, for example tesa Extra Power Extreme Outdoor or Original Bundeswehr tank tape is suitable.
You glue a strip over the affected area, press gently on the splinter, and carefully pull it off in the direction from which the splinter got into the skin. If you are successful, it will stick to the tape.
Is it a piece of wood? Then it swells in water. To do this, place the affected skin area several times a day in a bowl of warm water. Small pieces of wood swell so that they come out of the wound. Larger ones show up on the surface and can be removed with tweezers.
Banana and soap
You can crush some banana, apply it to the affected area and stick a plaster over it to fix it. Leave that on your skin overnight. The next morning the skin is softened and it is easier to remove the splinter. Alternatively, it works with a bar of soap.
Oil and fat
To make the splinter easier to pull out, rub the area with oil or butter. It does not matter whether it is olive, sunflower, rapeseed or other oil.
Important: sterile tool
The greatest risk of splinters in the finger is infection. Therefore, make sure to use sterile needles and tweezers to remove it. To sterilize tweezers and needles, it is enough to briefly hold them over a lighter and then wipe them with a clean cloth. It is best to soak the cloth in alcohol.
Wet cotton wool
If you are afraid of needles in the skin or do not want to take the pain associated with poking around in the wound, you can also fill the corresponding finger of a plastic glove with wet cotton wool, pull it over your finger and stick the glove on with a plaster.
Then leave the whole thing on your finger overnight. The splinter often comes off the skin like this, by the way, even when it sits under the fingernail.
Possible complications from splinters in the finger
Complications arise on the one hand from pathogens that are on the splinter, on the other hand through the body's immune response to a foreign body, which can lead to inflammation. If you do not remove the small piece, the body's defenses will start.
They attack bacteria that are on the splinter and repel the foreign body. A pus is formed. It breaks open after a time, and the pus and the splinter come out of the wound. However, if this sits deep or is particularly large, chronic inflammation develops.
The immune system does not succeed in rejecting it, the pus is enlarged, the area becomes red, hot and swells. At the latest when the area turns red, the pain throbbing and the skin warms, you should see a doctor who removes the foreign body. In the worst case, blood poisoning follows, and it can be fatal.
Also check to see if you have had tetanus vaccination in the past ten years. If not, make up for it.
Remove splinters with tweezers
The most common way to remove a splinter from your finger is to use tweezers to pull it out. The end should neither be too wide nor too narrow, tweezers tapering at the extreme end to pluck eyelashes are unsuitable. We do not recommend tweezers with strong spring tension, which we use to pluck hairs, because when pulling out the foreign body, we should carefully control how much pressure we exert.
The hair tweezers attached to fixation and plucking do a little damage to splitters because they quickly break off parts of them and make the rest more difficult to remove.
Anatomical tweezers with a pen, on the other hand, are excellent. So-called pimple remover (pimple remover) with bent needles at the end are the right tool to remove very small fragments.
The deluxe version are precision tweezers with built-in LED light that illuminate the foreign body that has penetrated the skin. Before you buy such high-tech tweezers for around 20 euros because of a splinter in your skin, you should consider whether it makes more sense to go to the doctor right away.
Take care of hygiene
Before using the tweezers, sterilize the tool and also wash your hands, as well as those of the person concerned, if you treat someone else. Then dry the skin with a clean towel, but not the wound.
It is best to enlarge the view of the affected area with a magnifying glass. Now pull the splinter out.
If this cannot be easily removed, first soak your finger in warm soapy water. Then expose the skin with a small nail and pull out the foreign body with the tweezers as soon as parts of it protrude from the wound.
Splinters in the finger: when to the doctor?
Small fragments can often be easily removed. Larger pieces in the skin, for example broken glass, rusty nails, fish hooks or stone chips (quartz etc.) require a doctor. Drive to the emergency room. Leave your fingers out! You would probably exacerbate the injury if you used tweezers and a needle. Splinters of glass could break and push deeper into the skin, with unclean metal parts you are likely to distribute harmful substances within the wound and thus promote infections.
Dermatologist Klaus Fritz from Landau advises: "Some fragments, for example made of metal or stone, can be smashed in practice using a laser."
In any case, you should show the places where there are larger foreign bodies to a dermatologist who will discuss the further procedure with them.
The greatest risk of a splinter in the finger that you do not treat properly is blood poisoning (sepsis). After all, it is the third leading cause of death in Germany. This is where a mosquito actually becomes an elephant, a minor injury extends to fatal poisoning.
Doctors warn that blood poisoning is particularly often caused by neglected minor injuries: grazes, cuts with the kitchen knife into the skin or the penetration of splinters. Don't panic, but pay attention to wound hygiene. The main pathogens of blood poisoning, staphylococci, penetrate the tissue when and because a wound is not disinfected.
Fever and shortness of breath
If you have a splinter in your finger and you develop a fever, chills, low temperature or shortness of breath, see your doctor immediately. If you suspect sepsis, he will send you to the hospital. There you get a broad-spectrum antibiotic that kills most potential pathogens before the exact trigger is determined. If left untreated, blood poisoning leads to circulatory collapse and septic shock. The organs fail and you die.
A splinter in the skin generally does not lead to blood poisoning, but this occurs because pathogens penetrate the tissue and the blood. This can happen over any open wound. Sepsis only occurs when you open the wound, i.e. the place through which the foreign body penetrated - with a needle and tweezers, or by excessive scratching. Therefore, you should absolutely pay attention to wound hygiene, disinfect the wound, sterilize the tools and wash your hands.
Local redness and swelling around the affected area initially only indicates the body's defense response and no blood poisoning. As long as the area does not become inflamed, it is not a sign of poisoning, but an attempt by the body to heal the wound.
If you have a large splinter in a very dirty wound, you should see a doctor. Even with smaller fragments like rose thorns, you should preventively cover the injuries with a disinfectant iodine ointment.
If blood poisoning has already broken out, there is a risk to life. It is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical attention. Forget about natural remedies like green tea for sepsis. The bacteria that cause the inflammatory response must be controlled immediately with an antibiotic.
People at risk
Blood poisoning as a result of pathogens that enter the body as a result of minor injuries such as small foreign bodies is a particular risk for people with weak immune defenses, whether due to old age, HIV, autoimmune diseases or diabetes. These should take special care with a splinter in the finger, always have a disinfectant iodine ointment with them when traveling, handicrafts or gardening, and it is better to see a doctor too soon than too late. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Eva Tinsobin: Slate under the nail: Small injury with big consequences, Der Standard, 2014, Der Standard
- German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), Deutsche Sepsis-Gesellschaft e.V .: S2k Guideline Sepsis - Prevention, Diagnosis, Therapy and Aftercare, as of February 2010, detailed view of guidelines
- This is how wood chips go out without a needle, Ärzte Zeitung, 14.05.2007, Ärzte Zeitung