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Soft Tissue Foreign Body in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What is a soft tissue foreign body?

A soft tissue foreign body is an object that is stuck under your child's skin. Examples of foreign bodies include wood splinters, thorns, slivers of metal or glass, and gravel.

What are the signs and symptoms of a soft tissue foreign body?

  • A hard lump under your child's skin
  • An open wound
  • Pain when you or your child touches the injured area
  • Redness and swelling
  • Bruising or bleeding

How is a soft tissue foreign body diagnosed and treated?

Your child's healthcare provider may press on the edges of the wound to feel for the foreign body. Your child may need an x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan to help find the foreign body. Contrast liquid may be used to help the foreign body show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

  • A foreign body may dissolve or come out of your child's skin without treatment. It may take weeks or months for this to happen. Your child's healthcare provider will decide if the foreign body should be removed. The foreign body may not be removed if it could harm your child's blood vessels or nerves. Your child may need medicine to decrease pain and prevent infection such as tetanus. Tell your child's healthcare provider if your child has had the tetanus vaccine or a tetanus booster within the last 5 years.
  • Your child's healthcare provider may numb the area and make a small incision. The provider will use tools to help remove the foreign body. Your child's wound may be flushed to prevent infection. Your child may need surgery if the foreign body cannot be found or removed with a small incision.

How do I care for the wound?

Care for the wound as directed to help prevent problems such as an infection. The following are general guidelines:

  • Apply firm, steady pressure for 5 to 10 minutes if the wound bleeds. Use a clean gauze or towel to apply pressure.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry. Your child's healthcare provider may tell you to leave the bandage in place for the first 48 hours. You may be told to change the bandage sooner if it gets wet or dirty. Then change the bandage as often as directed, and if it gets wet or dirty. If the wound is packed, remove and change the packing as directed. Cover the area with a bandage as directed.
  • When your child's provider says it is okay to bathe, carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. Let soap and water run over the wound. Do not scrub your wound. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed.

How do I manage my child's symptoms?

Your child's skin may feel stretched and sore after the foreign body is removed. This is normal and should get better within a few days. The following may prevent or help symptoms such as pain and swelling:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Have your child elevate the injured area above heart level as often as possible. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Help prop the injured area on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
    Elevate Leg (Child)
  • Apply ice on the wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your child's skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Blood soaks through your child's bandage.
  • Your child's stitches come apart.
  • You see red streaks on the skin near your child's wound.
  • Your child has bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of holding firm, direct pressure over the wound.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's wound is red, swollen, and draining pus.
  • Your child's symptoms, such as pain, do not get better or get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.