What is object in the skin?

Object in the Skin
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Object in a child's skin: Overview

Small objects (splinters) of wood, metal, glass, or plastic can become embedded in the skin. Thorns from roses and other plants also can prick or become stuck in the skin. Splinters can cause an infection if they are not removed.

Your doctor probably removed the object and cleaned your child's skin well. Your doctor may have prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection and given a tetanus shot if your child had not had one in the last 5 years or you do not know when the last tetanus shot was given. For a few days, your child may have pain and itching in the wound where the object was removed.

How can you care for your child who has an object in the skin?

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your child's wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the wound with a mild soap and water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the wound with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and a nonstick bandage.
    • Replace the bandage as needed.
  • Your doctor may have used medicine to numb your child's skin. When it wears off, the pain may return. Give your child an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • After 2 or 3 days, if the swelling is gone, apply a warm cloth to the wound area. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold.
  • It may help to prop up the affected part of your child's body on a pillow anytime your child sits or lies down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of the heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • The wound may itch or feel irritated. A little redness and swelling is normal. Do not let your child scratch or rub the wound.

How to remove a splinter

Before using tweezers or a needle to remove a splinter, try using cellophane tape to remove it. Simply put the tape over the splinter, then pull the tape off. The tape will stick to the splinter and remove it painlessly.

If tape doesn't work, try these steps.

  1. Wash your hands well with soap and water.

    Do not wet or soak the splinter because it will be harder to remove in one piece.

  2. Grasp the end of the splinter with clean tweezers.

    If the splinter is embedded in the skin:

    Clean a needle with alcohol and make a small hole in the skin over the end of the splinter.
    Lift the splinter with the tip of the needle until it can be grasped with the tweezers.
  3. Gently pull the splinter out.
  4. Clean the wound.
  5. Watch for any signs of infection.

You may need medical care if the splinter:

  • Cannot be easily removed.
  • Broke off and part of it remains in the wound or if you are uncertain that the splinter has been removed.
  • Is very large.
  • Is deeply embedded in the skin.
  • Is in the eye.

Object in the skin: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • The skin near the wound is cool or pale or changes color.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in the area near the wound.
  • The wound starts to bleed, and blood soaks the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • You have trouble moving a limb near the wound.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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