Splinter & Thorn Removal

Everyone at some point will get a splinter, thorn, or stinger. There are many types of splinters, a piece of wood, a shard of glass, a fine piece of metal, and other fun impalements. They are annoying and in an off-grid situation will pose a serious health risk depending upon what you have been impaled by.

There is a debate as to whether you should remove a splinter or leave it in. In all but a few rare occasions removing the foreign object from your body is prudent. Sometimes, depending upon the location of the splinter you may wish to defer its removal to a medical professional. Organic materials pose the highest risk to infection and sepsis. Immediate attention should be paid to all splinters as well as any other minimal broken skin areas.

Splinters comprised of organic matter are of significant concern. The human body will think that it can break it down and absorb it. The immune system will become inflamed, turning red and swollen. Blood and immune cells rush to the site. But a large splinter cannot be absorbed so the body will move to protection mode. The white blood cells will wall off the splinter by creating a barrier from the splinter. The barrier is known as a granuloma. Glass and metal will not cause as significant negative reactions from your system.

Tetanus can set in rapidly from the wound if you are not careful. Thorns, nails, screws, etc. all have a risk of causing bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even fecal matter to enter your body via the puncture wound. * Note * Several medical practitioners that were consulted recommend that puncture wounds be cleaned with an aggressive surfactant or high pressure distilled water irrigation immediately after the splinter is removed. Thorns are of special concern. Thorns often have a special fungus, most common on roses. That fungus causes something called sporotrichosis, often referred to as “Rose Gardner’s Disease.” That fungus on the thorn, if not tended to rapidly can invoke your immune system to create a granuloma so large that it may require a surgeon to remove it.

Common methods employed to remove splinters include a sterilized needle, a razor blade, needle point tweezers, and a host of other more dubious methods. It is our advice that you obtain a box of lancets utilized for blood draw tests for blood sugar. They come in several forms. The best is either the single needle point with the 1.25  -inch plastic handle or the flat lancets with the arrow point. The latter is my favorite. The flat lancets are very strong, easy to hold and manipulate. They are also extremely sharp.

Stingers are another form of splinter. Some continue pumping venom long after you were stung. See the post on removing stingers (Check the list).

The value of utilizing a lancet is that they are sterile and individually packed. They are small and easily stored. Stock your first aid kit with some sterile single use lancets (generally used for diabetic blood testing). They are surgically sharpened, with beveled tip, for precise, low resistance release of splinters and small embedded objects.

Clean the area prior to extracting the embedded splinter. If possible use a head mounted magnifier so that you can be hands free and are able to see with high detail the small objects involved. Precise extraction is critical. Any cut in the wilderness or unsanitary conditions can be deadly. Make sure to clean the site after the removal and dress the wound well to protect it from dirt and infection.

Any time that you break the skin you must employ sterile conditions and methods. PracticeSurvival and Will Hemingway, though formally trained, are not a licensed practicing doctor. Always exercise caution and due diligence when piercing your skin or caring for injuries. Consult a physician where possible.