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Removing A Splinter Without Tears

Why not try a doctor-recommended home remedy for removing a splinter? Russell Copelan, MD, suggests using a wart removal patch to get out a tricky splinter.
Removing A Splinter Without Tears
Little boy examines the sore leg sitting on the couch indoors. Injury, bruise, splinter. Kids trauma and safety concepts.

Do you have a favorite trick for removing a splinter? Many families have a “traditional” approach to this common medical problem that may have been handed down for at least a generation or two. But there isn’t always agreement on the details.

How Do You Sterilize a Needle?

Q. What’s the best way to sterilize a needle? Every time our five-year-old daughter gets a splinter there is a family argument. My husband insists on waving a lit match under the needle for about 5 seconds. In my family we always dipped the needle in alcohol.

Our daughter gets upset when we disagree over this and sometimes refuses to let us remove the splinter at all.

A. We’re not sure either technique will sterilize a needle. A few seconds under a match may not be adequate and a quick dip in alcohol is unlikely to kill all germs either. Soaking the needle for 10 minutes would be a safer approach but most people don’t have the patience when there is a painful splinter. Instead, you might want to try one of the following remedies.

How to Remove Splinters More Easily:

Q. Is there an ointment that can speed up the process of a splinter coming out?

A. We have several options to help speed splinter removal. Many readers have written about applying white glue (for example, Elmer’s) under a bandage for a few hours. Others have used duct tape over the splinter, again for hours. When removing the tape, the splinter may come out too. In addition, the tape may soften the skin to make the wood easier to grab.

Wart Plaster for Removing a Splinter:

One final suggestion was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (April 1989). The author, Dr. Russell Copelan, recommended a salicylic acid plaster sold for wart removal. Some come with adhesive built in, but others need to be held in place with a bandage. Put the plaster over the area the splinter entered and leave it on for 12 hours. Upon removing it, you should also be able to get the splinter out easily and with very little discomfort.

Can a Raisin Help with Removing a Splinter?

Q. A few years ago, I was unable to remove a splinter from my hand. Ultimately, it calloused over but was still bothersome. In desperation, I searched the Internet to find out how to remove it and viewed a video that told how to use a raisin to get it to surface.

The result wasn’t immediate, but I was persistent. After about a week of taping a fresh raisin over the spot daily, the splinter emerged.

More recently, a rose thorn went through my garden glove and embedded itself in my hand. I could not grab it with tweezers nor pry it out using a needle, so I covered it with a raisin and bandage. The next morning the thorn had emerged enough that I could grab it and pull the quarter-inch thorn out. Can you please explain the magical properties in raisins?

A. We wish we could! When we retraced your Internet search, we found a similar video demonstrating this remedy.

We have written for years about using a wart plaster with salicylic acid over a stubborn splinter. This was written up long ago in the medical literature. Raisins are high in salicylates, so perhaps that helps explain this unusual effect. Some people advocate cutting the raisin in half and applying the cut surface to the skin for a day to encourage the splinter to work itself out.

What’s Your Approach?

If you have a favorite technique for removing a splinter, tell us about it in the comment section below. 

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
  • Copelan R, "Chemical removal of splinters without epidermal toxic effects." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 1989. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0190-9622(89)80157-4
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