Do nettles leave splinters?
Yes: Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) looks innocent, but the fine, bristly hairs on the leaves contain a chemical that causes a painful burning sensation when the needlelike tips come in contact with the skin. Although the burning and stinging is temporary, the discomfort often lasts long after the redness has disappeared, sometimes up to 24 hours. The plant, which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 9, creates problems for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Native to the United States, stinging nettle is known by a number of names, including California nettle, creek nettle, hoary nettle, hedge nettle and mountain nettle.
Touch the affected area lightly with sticky tape such as duct tape or packing tape. Pull the tape away from the skin to remove the needles.
Cover the area with white craft glue or wax hair remover if sticky tape doesn't remove the needles. Let the glue or hair remover dry completely and then peel the glue, along with the needles, away from the skin.
Wash the area gently with soap and warm water. Dry the skin and apply an antibiotic cream or ointment to prevent infection.
Apply a baking soda paste consisting of 3 parts baking soda mixed with 1 part water if stinging and itching continue, as baking soda neutralizes the acid released by the needles. Add more baking soda to make a thicker paste if necessary, as a thin paste won't adhere to the skin. Allow the paste to remain on the skin for 30 minutes.
Things You Will Need
White craft glue or wax hair remover
Antibiotic cream or ointment
Do not attempt to remove stinging nettle needles with tweezers. Often, the fragile needles break and become even more difficult to remove.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Burning and Stinging Nettles
PortlandHikers.org: Stinging Nettles
Kansas State University Extenson: Stinging Nettle
Seattle Children's Hospital: Splinter or Sliver: Foreign Body in the Skin
Real Simple: Ten New Uses for Baking Soda
Health Guidance: How to Treat Stinging Nettles on Kids
About the Author
M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.
Cite this Article