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First Aid: How to Remove a Splinter

Left alone, many splinters will eventually work their way out. But if you can clearly see the entire splinter, give removal a shot. Hold a small bag of ice over the area for ten minutes to slightly numb the skin. Then, using a needle that has been cleaned with rubbing alcohol, gently lift the edge of the splinter and try to grasp it with a pair of clean tweezers. (Using a magnifying glass may help.) If it appears ready to break, or you have difficulty getting a good grasp, it's best to stop and admit defeat. We doctors would much rather remove a simple, intact splinter than try to find bits and pieces of something in an area that has become irritated. Of course, if you did get it out, wash the area well, apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage, and keep an eye out for irritation. Redness, ongoing pain, or pus is reason to call the doctor.

By Lara Zibners, M.D., from the November 2010 issue of Parenting Early Years

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