A couple years ago, on vacation with another family at their beach house their 3 year old got a big splinter in her foot from the old wood deck. Her parents spent the next 10 or 15 minutes holding her down and trying to dig it out while she screamed like they were, well, digging into her foot. It’s a horrific memory neither of us are likely to forget. She didn’t understand why mommy and daddy were attacking her and, frankly, neither did I.
I’d always believed that splinters grew out on their own. About 6 months ago it was time to test this theory when my son got a giant splinter (almost half an inch long) buried deep in his arch. There wasn’t any part sticking out and, after the initial crying, he said it didn’t bother him. So I left it. A few days later it was gone. Even I was surprised by his little body’s effectiveness at purging the intruding splinter, no digging –or crying– necessary.
Then my daughter got a splinter and I decided to see if my “wait-and-see” approach worked again. I rationalized that I can always dig the splinter out later (after a bath or maybe while she’s sleeping). I sprayed the area with neosporin and let it be. But then I made the mistake of doing a little research– all which suggests “foreign objects” left in our bodies will get infected– and started worrying. But people ram earrings through our ears and as long as we keep it clean they don’t typically get infected, so I gave it a few days with neosporin. By the time I remembered to check again (tonight) the splinter was long gone.
If our bodies expel splinters on their own– as my snerds seem to– why do so many parents immediately grab the tweezers? Even BabyCenter.com says, “There’s a good chance the splinter will work itself out, especially if your baby soaks in the tub, since the warm water will loosen the skin around it. Infections from splinters are uncommon, but do watch for signs while you’re waiting — warmth, redness, swelling, pus — and take your child to the doctor if you see any.”
Per my experience, I think the risk of infection is exaggerated and it’s an (untrue) old wives’ tale that splinters must be removed.