My son, the one-man splinter cell
August 15, 2006 7:54 AM   Subscribe

My 16 month old son was at a party on Sunday, and appears to have gotten himself several dozen small splinters on the side of his left calf. It's a bit red around them, as you'd expect, and he won't sit still long enough to let us work 'em out. There's got to be 30 or more, real small dark splinters, so I can't say I'd expect him to sit through even one or two. Anyone have any advice on what we can do to alleviate the pain or help them come out naturally? We thought about smearing some kind of salt water concoction, or something like that. Not sure if it'll help, though.
posted by Merdryn to Health & Fitness (25 answers total)
if they stick out a little, perhaps put some kind of tape on them and rip them out all at once, no fun, but really, they need to come out.
posted by stormygrey at 7:57 AM on August 15, 2006

Best answer: Have you tried teething gel to numb the site?
posted by Sara Anne at 7:57 AM on August 15, 2006

We just pulled a bunch of splinters out of my 19 month old daughter's fingers and hands. Our first move was to plop her in the bath for a while, let her prune up a bit. This will soften the skin so you can more easily get at them.

We used a needle to expose enough of one end of the splinter to snag it with a tweezers. Get some new tweezers if you need to. Ours don't grab tiny things so well after a few years of use.

We were tempted to try all this while she was sleeping, but in the end we just held her down and went for it. She screamed bloody murder, of course. But she got over it.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:03 AM on August 15, 2006

Best answer: Ya, I second the teething gel. Or get to a pediatrician for another sort of topical pain reliever (or phoning might do the trick). If it's real good and numb, he may be still enough to let you tweeze them out.

Or just yell at him that Sam Fischer would fight through the pain....for America!

Myself, I screamed like a wee girl when I had to take a needle to my palm's splinter months ago. Numb numb numb.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:06 AM on August 15, 2006

Best answer: Epsom salts in the schoolgirl's pruning bath will accelerate the prunage.

Are these cactus needles or wood splinters?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:08 AM on August 15, 2006

Response by poster: Wood splinters.

Suggestions are looking good. I may end up working with the missus to hold him down, cry as he might, to remove them -- after a pruning soak and a topical pain relief application.

Unless there are any other tips?
posted by Merdryn at 8:12 AM on August 15, 2006

Can't you just hold him down? Without doing so, you are risking further infection (that's what the red is, you know).
posted by jmgorman at 8:22 AM on August 15, 2006

Regardless of what else works for you, come to the realization that he'll kick and squirm and wriggle no matter how comfortable you make him. Restraining him safely is the best way to get them out quickly, which will be better in the long run.
posted by boo_radley at 8:30 AM on August 15, 2006

Spend a day really exhausting him, give him some infant tylenol, and then do it about an hour after he's asleep.
posted by poppo at 8:30 AM on August 15, 2006

Despite jmgorman's scaremongering, the red isn't necessarily infection. Blood rushes to the site of a wound to aid in healing. A slight discoloration is normal.
posted by jon_kill at 8:36 AM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just as general reference.
posted by stormygrey at 8:38 AM on August 15, 2006

Response by poster: Natural immune response to wood <> worrisome infection.

I'm not concerned he's going to lose his leg to flesh eating bacteria, I just want him to be comfortable without risking spearing him with a needle and tweezers.

I'd just as soon let his body do what every human body does with splinters: Eat them and push out the rest through natural swelling and cell division. However, I'm hoping there is something I can do to speed that up, or make removal a less traumatic experience (for both of us).
posted by Merdryn at 8:44 AM on August 15, 2006

Response by poster: On post, what jon_kill said, but admittedly snarkier. ;)
posted by Merdryn at 8:46 AM on August 15, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, all. As suggested by the marked posts, I suspect we're going to give him a nice long soak (the boy loves his bath) about 20 minutes after he's been given a dose of infant Tylenol or Ibuprofen, slather his leg with benzocaine, hold the little man down and remove all that we can, then cuddle up with him and let him watch Baby Mozart, his own guilty pleasure. We pull that one out for special occasions, and it's guaranteed to end his crying, every time. Weird, I know.
posted by Merdryn at 8:50 AM on August 15, 2006

We pull that one out for special occasions


But seriously, I've done the bath > ice > distraction with movie routine for smaller splinter-pulling operations. It worked pretty well (on my toddler and my mother as well!). The Orajel idea is a good one and I would try that and the ibuprofen if I had to do it again. Good luck -- it is really hard but I bet you'll be okay with your plan. Probably almost as bad for you as it is for your son, I know!
posted by theredpen at 11:11 AM on August 15, 2006

My parents used to do this -- not sure how ethical it is -- but they'd give me liquor to relax me and get me to sleep. Southern Comfort, to be precise. Just a little, I think. I have no idea if this is a good idea, please do a little more research before trying it, but it's an idea.
posted by amtho at 11:32 AM on August 15, 2006

Oh, and I didn't end up particularly stupid or anything... I think.
posted by amtho at 11:34 AM on August 15, 2006

Black ointment (or black salve) is supposed to be good for that. You can find it at health food stores, I believe.

Plus, I recommend using the thin tweezers you find in a Swiss Army Knife; they're awesome at picking up little slivers.
posted by stefanie at 11:55 AM on August 15, 2006

Ichthammol or ichthyol! It's a black ointment, also known as a drawing salve. It works amazingly. You go to your local drugstore and pick up a tube that looks just like a tube of antibiotic ointment (except this is black).

Clean the affected area, put on the stuff, and cover it with a Band-Aid. Then leave it alone. Repeat after every shower, or whenever the Band-Aid comes off. Within a couple of days -- less if the splinters are shallow -- the junk will all be right at the surface, and you'll only have to pluck the splinters out; it won't hurt, he'll just have to sit still for a minute.

My parents swore by it when I was growing up. Looking around online now, I don't think it seems widely popular, but I can't imagine why not. It works like anything; I've never seen it fail.
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:01 PM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Hey, I just saw an "Untold Stories of the E.R." episode about this. A little girl had thousands of tiny slivers in her (from falling in a cactus) and the solution they came up with was to use depillatory wax/tape. The put it on an area, let it do it's thing, then pulled it off and removed all the splinters at once.

I'm not sure if it will be painful or not, I've never used it. Maybe someone who has can weigh in.
posted by generic230 at 1:00 PM on August 15, 2006

Re the black ointment approach:

The old wife tells me that Vaseline will work, too.
posted by yclipse at 5:47 PM on August 15, 2006

If they're small and not buried, the unfortunately named Nad's might do the trick, but it'll pull out hair, too, so be careful where you put it.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:40 PM on August 15, 2006

docpop's method has always worked best in our house. But then, my wee girls (ok, so the 7 year old is nearly as tall as me at this point) can send up a ridiculous fuss when they've worked themselves into a panic. If I can do it when they're asleep, so much the better for everyone involved...
posted by susanbeeswax at 11:28 PM on August 15, 2006

They make tweezers that are "normally closed", and only open when you press the handles. We like those for splinters, less likely to poke the victim.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:19 AM on August 16, 2006

Response by poster: Between pruning up in the bath and cooling from the benzocaine, we were able to get out most of the obvious ones. The rest are tiny, and will likely push out in the next day or two anyway, and they aren't bugging him (we can tough them without him shreaking).

Thanks, all!
posted by Merdryn at 8:36 AM on August 16, 2006

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