|MadSci Network: General Biology|
Janelle, First of all, I think it is really neat that your father was a carpenter. That is a noble profession. What is even more cool is that you were able to be around him enough to the extent of getting splinters. That said, allow me to apologize for not returning an answer sooner. I was, out of pocket, per the colloquial expression. It was out of country and 'hush hush' so to speak. It drives the Admin here nuts sometimes. As a rule, the immune system does not like foreign bodies in our bodies. Particularly when they came in unepected and are associated with nonsterile trauma. Case in point would be the splinter/thorn that one gets while traipsing aoubt or working on a project. The best example is the nasty rusty steel that may get trapped within the skin from a nail or other sharp piece. Inflamation occurs in a most dramatic and rapid fashion when you have one of these encounters. Pain, heat, redness, and swelling quickly follow. There are latin works - 'rubor', etc but I cannot remember them. This would be the first stage of attack. A person who receives a particularly nasty or diry/soiled piece of material should go to their doctor as soon as feasible, even if the material is removed. I stepped on a 'used' round pike like toothpick last year - it went about 1 1/2 inches into my sole. Pulling it out was about as much fun as it going in. I knew I was in trouble suspecting a deep tissue penetration which would involve the skin, fat, fscia and muscle. These are bad as you can get a deep space abscess quickly. BTW, this is the environment that tetanus loves as do other anaerobic organisms (I mentioned that the toothpick had been used - our mouths are filled with these kinds of organisms. Puncture wounds are problemsome as they are difficult to clean and flush out. The offending agent will leave material behind. I say this so that the individual may receive a booster Tetanus shot and perhaps Tetanus Immunoglobulin if they have an unknown immunization record. In my case- saw my pal the next day (an advantage that physicians have - we are all family and take care of each other) got on the antibiotics and started hot soaks. It resolved within 36 hours. Theoretically and practically for the most part the body will eventually push out the superficial interloper. I had this experience as a child. While climbing around a creek bank - hands and knees of course - I picked up a very long thorn in my left knee. I thought it was a foot long of course. It went straight in - these are harder to extract. My mother, an RN, was able to get a very small piece out, After the visit for shots (yuk!) we set about a month long process of removing this thorn. I would do hot soaks each day, this enable the immune system to gather more white cells and other helper cells in the area to begin the rejection process. Every Saturday she would get the tweezers and grab the now visible stump of the thorn and pull out another small piece. It had apparently worked its way into a spot where it then fragmented due to the leg bending. I distinctly remember this was a month of dreading Saturdays! You mentioned different materials. Again we are assuming a nonsterile unplanned penetration into the skin. The body will push everything out eventually or it will die a natural death before it achieves this. My next door neighbor and first unrequited love was in a horrible car accident where she was filled with glss fragments, primarily in the upper body and face. This happened roughly 30 years ago, Patty will still feel a little sting and sooner or later out pops a tiny piece of glass. I use glass as it tends to be less reactive. She had medium and shollow depth penetration and I would imagine most of the glass is gone now. When I worked in a fiberglass plant making different things (summer job/college) I would get exposed to glasss dust, fragments and pigments. For about a year afterwards I would experience minor itching and then a piece would come out. Also coughed up and out pigments, etc. I mad the distinction between nonsterile/unplanned events as we know - there are people running around with all sorts of hardware inside. A planned sterile porcedure installing material that is nearly rejection proof and using agents that spool down the immune response will allow these to remain in place. Back to different splinters and foreign bodies. Organic things, or highly reactive material - ie iron that oxidizes, things that are rusty or dirty are going to cause a more abrupt dramatic response. Graphite, as in pencil lead. It seems to be more inert. Heat to the area - as in warm soaks and a clean, boiled clean ,sewing needle can be used to gently unroof the tract to help the body force it out or a pair of tweezers. In conclusion, you are correct. Our bodies to not want foreign material in them. They will attempt to expel this. Obviously, in some cases, help is needed. And there are cases, with deep penetrance of a missle, such as certain bullets, where the thing remains indefinitely. Even in these cases, surgeries can be performed to remove them if they begin to migrate - pushed as it were by the body. They get removed if they are migrating in the general direction of an organ or nerve/vessel that they may damage. Late and longwinded. I hope that I helped and entertained at the same time! Sincerely, Gerry Bock
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