How to treat a deep splinter under the fingernail

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A splinter is foreign body that is embedded under the skin and should be removed immediately to lessen the inflammation and reduce the risk for infection. Splinters under the fingernail causes severe pain due to the abundant nerve endings in the area. In addition, splinters are usually glass, wood or metal.

Symptoms of a splinter under the fingernail

  • At first, pain and a sensation in the skin.
  • The splinter is present in or under the skin or not evident
  • Minor bleeding or no bleeding at all
  • A splinter is not present until an infection develops
  • Lastly, the area becomes swollen, warm, red and tender.


  • In a small bowl filled with warm water, mix a tablespoon of baking soda until baking soda it is totally dissolved and soak the finger in the solution for at least 10 minutes. Dry thoroughly the finger. Disinfect a pair of tweezers and fingernail clippers using rubbing alcohol and let them dry. Trim the nail where the foreign object is embedded. Clip a “V” shape in the nail with the point of the V positioned on the end of the splinter. Hold the end securely using the tweezers and steadily draw out the splinter out of the skin. In addition, cover the wound using a sterile adhesive bandage on the fingertip until the area is healed.
  • If a splinter is embedded deep beneath the skin surface, utilize a sterilized needle or pin to dig portions of the embedded object to draw above the surface. Make a hole over the end of the object near the surface. Lift using the needle and grab it using the tweezers or nail clippers. Avoid digging it too deep to prevent damage and the risk of breakage.
  • Use a drawing salve which is a form of disinfectant that dislodges very deep splinters by loosening them and make them “slip out” of the skin. Generally, apply the drawing salve on the affected area and let it remain for at least a day or two. Cover the area using a bandage. The salve will bring the foreign object to the surface of the skin and there is still a need to use the tweezers in plucking out the splinter from the skin.

Additional measures

  • In a basin filled with warm water, mix baking soda. Mix well until the baking soda is totally dissolved and soak the affected area for at least an hour if the splinter is made of metal, glass or plastic. Baking soda is a disinfectant that minimizes bleeding and draws the splinter close to the surface of the skin. Cover the area using a bandage and leave it overnight. Use tweezers or nailclippers in pulling out the splinter.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover with a bandage for protection from dirt and irritation.

Disclaimer / More Information

The material posted on this page on a splinter is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage skin injuries by taking a first aid and CPR class with one of our training providers.





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