Foreign object in the skin: First aid

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A foreign object in the skin might be anything from a tiny wood splinter to a large, jagged piece of glass. Serious wounds can be deep and dangerous with severe bleeding and a risk of infection.

Seek prompt medical help for a foreign object that is very painful or is 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.
  • Bandage the wound. First put a piece of gauze over the object. Then 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.

Foreign object in the skin: First aid

You can usually safely remove a small foreign object that's just under the surface of the skin. Examples of such an object are a wood splinter, thorn, and fragment of fiberglass. Follow these first-aid steps:

  • Wash your hands and clean the area well with soap and water.
  • Use tweezers cleaned with rubbing alcohol to remove the object. Use a magnifying glass to 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 break the skin over the object and lift up the tip of the object.
  • Use a tweezers to grab the end of the object and remove it.
  • Wash the area again and pat dry. Apply petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment.

Foreign object in the skin: First aid

In addition, seek medical help if:

  • The object is hard to see, such as clear glass, or doesn't come out easily, such as can happen with a fishhook.
  • The injury involves an eye or is close to an eye.
  • The wound is deep or dirty, and the injured person's last tetanus vaccination was more than five years ago. Your healthcare professional may recommend a booster.
May 08, 2024