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Our two-year-old just had her first wood sliver. We were able to remove most of the wood with a pair of tweezers.

A small amount of dark matter is still visible under the skin. We would prefer not to have to make an incision to clean it out, and I'm sure she'd agree with us. (She was brave, but she was just as happy to reach the end of the tweezer session as we were.)

Is it safe to leave the remainder under the skin? Also, any advice on helping the wound to heal, and on avoiding infection, would be appreciated.

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Dangerously close to "medical advice", this, which is off-topic. But yeah, if it doesn't get infected it's fine, if not go to a doctor pronto. –  Lennart Regebro Jun 3 '11 at 8:51
    
Hmm. I agree. I'm trying to think of a way to reword the question. Perhaps something more like "weighing the discomfort of the child against the risk of infection". (Suggestions welcome.) –  TSomKes Jun 3 '11 at 19:56
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3 Answers

I'd say due to conflicting medical advice given in the other answers to this question, the best bet is to call your ped. My philosophy is that if I'm asking the question on the internet, I should be asking the question to my doctor. My philosophy is also that if the doc/ped doesn't take the question seriously, it's time to find a new doc. We don't have access to your child's chart and any underlying medical conditions, so it's very hard to diagnose a situation sight-unseen.

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Our pediatrician advised us that you can leave it unless it gets infected. Contrary to the other poster, he indicated that you should NOT soak it. The goal is to dry it out so the surface skin dies and flakes away. Soaking tends to soften the skin and it will take longer for the sliver to work its way out.

You can treat with anti-biotic cream/ointment to prevent infection (many also have topical pain killer which will help ease your mind that you're doing what you can if nothing else).

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I personally know someone who had a knuckle of a finger amputated because of a splinter that became infected, so it's no trivial concern. However, he wasn't the most hygienic fellow, and in general our bodies are pretty good about taking care of such things themselves given some basic precautions.

Based on WebMD's first aid page, which my doctor recommended to me, it looks like you can safely leave it in for a few days while soaking the area a couple times a day with water and baking soda to see if it works itself out. The most important thing is to keep it clean, with alcohol and antibiotic ointment. I personally wouldn't incise live skin, leaving that to doctors with training and good local anesthetics, but I have carefully cut into the callous that forms after a few days when the skin around a splinter dies. See your doctor if it gets infected and you aren't able to completely clean it out at that time.

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