Foreign object in the skin: First aid

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You can usually safely remove a small foreign object — such as a wood splinter, thorn, fiberglass or glass — that's just under the surface of the skin:

  • Wash your hands and clean the area well with soap and water.
  • Use tweezers cleaned with rubbing alcohol to remove the object. A magnifying glass may help you see better.
  • If the object is under the surface of the skin, sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol. Use the needle to gently lift or break the skin over the object. Lift the tip of the object out and grasp it with your tweezers.
  • Squeeze the wound gently to allow bleeding to wash out germs.
  • Wash the area again and pat dry. Apply an antibiotic ointment.

Seek prompt medical help for a foreign object that seems to be more deeply embedded in the skin or muscle. Follow these precautions and steps first:

  • Don't try to remove the object. Doing so could cause further harm.
  • If needed, control bleeding by pressing firmly around the object to bring the edges of the wound together and by raising the injury higher than the heart.
  • Bandage the wound. First put a piece of gauze over the object. Then, if it helps, put clean padding around the object before binding the wound securely with a bandage or a piece of clean cloth. Take care not to press too hard on the object.

In addition, seek medical help if:

  • The object doesn't come out easily.
  • The injury involves an eye.
  • The wound is deep or dirty and the injured person's last tetanus shot was more than five years ago. The doctor may recommend a booster shot.
Dec. 12, 2014