Possible severe or long-term problems from a splinter?

A few weeks ago, I was shoveling snow barehanded with an old shovel with a wooden handle. I ended up getting a few splinters. My girlfriend removed most of them, but I later discovered there was one more in finger. I neglected it and now it hurts a bit when I press in the spot. But I’m afraid it’s pretty deep into the finger now.

Are there any horror stories that I should know about?

IANAD, but typically, one of two things will happen:

A. It will get infected and this will either cause it to be expelled, or it will require medical attention.

B. It will become encysted - coated in a little sheath of scar tissue and will either remain there forever, or gradually work its way to the surface - appearing as a little callus that then opens up like a dry, hard, blister to reveal its treasure.

Keep watch for swelling and soreness, and if this is accompanied by red streaks tracking off in any direction, seek immediate/urgent medical attention.

Edited to add:

Actually, three things:

C. You will get so pissed off with it, you’ll dig it out somehow.

There was the myth perpetuated by my evil grandmother that said it would travel through my blood system, eventually to my heart, and cause me to drop dead on the spot. That still goes through my mind when I can’t get a splinter out…

Several years back I was trolling for dolphin in the Gulf Stream when we hit a school. Lines started flying and someone hit me smack in the forehead with a jig. Felt like I’d been shot and blood ran like water but no one would go back in…

Anyway, long story short, my head healed over and we had a tasty dinner. But approximately 6 months later I was washing my face when a spot on my forehead opened up and red and yellow paint flecks came out. No small amount either.

Moral of the story, splinters will eventually find their way out…

It can possibly become infected and turn you African-American.

Wait, what? Are you sure? But I… Seriously? Ouch. Ok then.

Ok, I’m told that black color would be Gangrene, and it means that part of your body is dying and will likely have to be removed.

When I had a deep splinter from a fence, I pried out what I could see, then went to the doctor. He couldn’t see or feel it, and it didn’t show on Xray. I soaked my finger in a warm epsom salt bath about three times a day, usually some pus came out. I worked it to keep it from getting too tight and kept pressing below where I felt it. After four days the rest popped out, an inch by one quarter sliver. It healed well after that.

Hope you get better!

This is what usually happens with me.

A deeply embedded foreign body will typically fester if it’s wood. The inflammatory reaction will soften the wood, and a small pocket of pus will typically eventually work its way to the surface. Wood is better than glass or metal at protecting bacteria from the body defenses.

Sometimes the whole thing will become walled off and remain as a small, firm, scar-like nodule.

On rare occasions, infection can find its way into adjacent bone, which simmers along indefinitely (osteomyelitis) and is very hard to cure non-surgically. Also rare, but possible, is extension of infection into a relatively avascular compartment such as a tendon sheath. Live germs in that space can create a signficant problem, especially in the hand.

Remote seeding from any active nidus of infection is possible, although also unlikely. For example, organisms seeded from an abscess in one area such as a hand might gain a foothold in another such as heart valve (usually a surface with some prior damage). However we get bacteremias all the time and the body defenses are very good at clearing them, so it’s highly unlikely a splinter to a finger will become systemically problematic without announcing itself locally first.

As a rule of thumb :wink: obvious infections in the hand (redness; swelling; pain), especially with a foreign body, are treated aggressively. But most splinters do not produce such hand-threatening infections.

One person I know had unexplained hives for more than a year-- it eventually turned out that it was from a tiny splinter.

Sea urchin spines can migrate around one’s body, I’ve heard.

Thanks everyone. It seems to have stopped hurting at least, but I’ll keep and eye on it.

Didn’t someone relatively famous die from a splinter?

Forgive me for being overly dramatic and then not being able to back up my statement with details, but I simply don’t recall the victim nor the exact circumstances. That said, the reason I’m so sure it happened is that when I read about it in the news or in a history book I thought, “(S)he died from a splinter! That’s crazy! I’ll never forget that.”

Many years ago I read the minutes of a church board meeting that mentioned a teenage member who died of a splinter. I could probably find the original copy if anyone really wants to see it. The child was hardly famous, however.

Well, if the splinter came from a Morgul balde wielded by a Nazgul, you might be in trouble. I suggest a trip to Rivendell, just to be sure.

A few years back, I was in Home Depot, wrestling a 4x8 sheet of plywood onto a cart by myself. One of the workers there saw me, said, “here, let me help you” and without waiting for a reply, grabbed one end of the sheet. His picking it up pushed it slightly towards me, and embedded a whole bunch of splinters in my right hand.

Took six weeks for the last of them to work their way out.

I always heard that the Lincoln’s son died from a splinter he received while goofing around in the White House while barefoot, but Wiki sez it was typhoid fever. I wonder who I’m thinking of?

Sherwood Anderson died after swallowing a toothpick. Maybe that’s who you’re thinking of?

They will work out.

My father got shot up pretty badly in WW2. He wound up with a lot of shrapnel in his hands that the docs left in because they determined that they would shred his hands trying to get it out. For the rest of his life, every once in a while, one of those metal splinters would decide to come see the outside world. I remember watching him pull one out that was about a half inch long. At my young age, I was pretty much :eek::eek: