A sliver or a splinter is a foreign body embedded in the skin. Most of these are slivers or splinters of wood. Others are slivers of glass, metal, plastic, thorns or cactus needles. Most slivers are in the superficial skin and do not cause much pain. Deep or perpendicular slivers are painful to pressure. Organic slivers (e.g. wood or thorns) usually become infected if they are not removed. Nonorganic slivers (e.g. metal or glass) generally do not.
Pencils contain graphite, which is harmless, not poisonous lead. Even colored graphites are nontoxic. They will cause a tattoo, however, and should be scrubbed out.
Home Care for Minor Slivers:
- 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 which will drain on its own.
- Tiny plant stickers: Plant stickers, cactus spines, fiberglass are difficult to remove. Usually they break when pressure is applied with tweezers. You can lightly touch the area with packaging tape or other sticky tape to try to remove them.
- Large splinters or thorns MAY be able to be removed easily with a tweezers. Make sure the tweezers are clean before using. Wash the skin with soap and water before attempting to remove it. Don’t soak the area if the splinter is wood (the water may cause the wood to expand). Pull the splinter out at the same angle it went in.
- Wash the area with soap and water after removing the splinter and apply antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid.
Call the office if:
- You have any trouble at all trying to remove a splinter.
- If you can’t get the entire splinter out and/or it is glass or metal.
- If the area is very painful
- If the area starts to look infected (redness, streaking, swelling, pain, or warm to the touch.)