Why would you not remove a foreign object from an open cut?
A foreign object should not always be removed from a wound.
In open cuts, the foreign body may not be removed immediately if it could harm the blood vessels or nerves. Sometimes, a foreign body is stuck in the wound, which also stops the blood from spurting out. Such a deeply embedded foreign body must only be treated by a physician. The decision to remove or leave a foreign object inside the body depends on many factors such as
- Type of object (metal/glass/other)
- Size of the object (big or small)
- Location (deep or just under the skin or is it in the foot or hand where the use of the foot or hand will cause discomfort)
If an object, such as a knife, a piece of glass or metal, is embedded in a wound, do not remove it.
- Place several dressings around it to keep it from moving.
- Bandage the dressings in place around the object.
Most tiny foreign bodies in the skin surface can be removed at home. These include splinters, cactus spines, fiberglass and pieces of glass.
- If something needs to be removed by a doctor, see one right away. Waiting may cause the object to become hidden or pushed in deeper. The doctor can numb the skin before the object is removed.
- Organic slivers (wood or thorns) most often become infected if they are not removed. Nonorganic slivers (metal or glass) often do not become infected.
How to remove foreign objects from the skin?
Most of the time, you can remove small objects and debris from your skin using a pair of tweezers. When foreign objects enter the body because of a puncture wound, it’s important to use care. Removing large or deeply embedded objects can result in uncontrolled blood loss. Generally, it’s best to seek medical attention to remove any foreign body that’s large enough to create a substantial wound. Before you attempt any foreign body removal from the skin, make sure to
- Wash your hands using soap and water.
- Use tweezers and sterilize them with rubbing alcohol before use.
- Remove the object and sterilize the wound using rubbing alcohol.
- Allow the wound to dry and then apply antibiotic ointment.
- Cover the wound with a bandage or gauze pad.
A patient may require a visit with the doctor if
- The object does not come out easily.
- The puncture wound is on the face, deep or touching bone.
- The wound is very dirty.
- The object entered through the bottom of a shoe (stepping on a nail, for instance).
- You have not had tetanus shots recently.
What are the common measures to treat the wound?
The common measures include
- Rest the affected part as much as possible.
- Elevate the area above the level of your heart for the first two days. Elevation minimizes swelling and pain.
- Over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve discomfort associated with your wound. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen, or naproxen can be taken, depending on individual preference.
- Clean the wound daily with soap and water. After cleaning, re-dress the wound. Apply over-the-counter antibacterial ointment and cover the wound with gauze.
- When changing the dressing, inspect the wound for signs of infection, such as pus on the wound, increasing redness/swelling/warmth around the wound or red streaks spreading from the wound. If you suspect infection is present, return to the doctor promptly.
- If you have continuing problems with the wounded area, schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor. Seek care if you have continuing discomfort when moving or using the wounded site or if you would like another opinion on the risks/benefits of removal.