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Soft Tissue Foreign Body in Children


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 his wound to feel for the foreign body. Your child may need an x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan to help find the foreign body. He may be given contrast liquid to help the foreign body show up better in the pictures. Tell your child's healthcare provider if he 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 his blood vessels or nerves. Your child may need medicine to decrease pain and prevent infection such as tetanus. Tell his healthcare provider if he 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. He will use tools to help remove the foreign body. He may flush your child's wound to prevent infection. Your child may need surgery if the foreign body cannot be found or removed with a small incision.

How can I manage my child's symptoms?

  • Have your child elevate the injured area above the level of his heart as often as he can. 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 your child's 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 his skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Care for your child's wound as directed.
    • Apply firm, steady pressure to your child's wound for 5 to 10 minutes if it bleeds. Use a clean gauze or towel to apply pressure.
    • Your child may say his skin feels stretched and sore after the foreign body is removed. This is normal and should get better within a few days. Keep your child's wound clean and dry. Do not let your child get his wound wet. Do not change his bandage for 48 hours or as directed. You can change his bandage before 48 hours if it gets wet or dirty. If his wound is packed, remove and change the packing as directed. Cover the area with a bandage as directed.
    • Ask your child's healthcare provider when he can bathe. When his healthcare provider says it is okay, carefully wash around your child's wound with soap and water. Let soap and water run over his wound. Do not scrub his wound. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed.

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 contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • 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.