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I Stepped on Glass. What Should I Do?

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute
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It happened so quickly. You dropped a glass. It shattered and, while you were trying to clean up (or after you thought you’d gotten all the pieces) you stepped on a shard. Small or large, you have to get that glass out of your foot, but you’re not sure exactly how to proceed. Here’s a step-by-step guide to safely removing glass from your foot or the foot of a child or loved one.  Watch out around glass--it's a big pain if you get some in your foot.

Get the Glass out Safely

Because stepping on broken glass can be so painful, it’s often hard to think clearly. The first thing to do, then, is to sit down somewhere safely and calmly assess the situation.

Is your foot bleeding? If so, try and stop the bleeding with pressure. For a small cut, a firm compress may do the trick; for a bigger wound, you may need to wrap the cut until you can see your doctor.

Once the bleeding has stopped, or is at least under control, you may be tempted to try and get the glass out on your own—but you shouldn’t.

Myths about Glass Removal

If you search the internet, there are all sorts of home remedies for getting glass out of your foot.  Some people suggest soaking the cut in baking soda; others suggest honey or even vinegar might be helpful.

If you think those suggestions sound crazy—you’re right! At the end of the day, when glass cuts into your foot, it opens up your skin, leaving you vulnerable to infection. The last think you want to do is introduce a foreign substance into an open wound! Not only are these home remedies unlikely to help get glass out of your feet, they are likely to lead to infection, acid burns or other complications.

Still, that glass won’t come out on its own. So what’s your next step?

Time to See your PodiatristIf you step on glass, you need to see your podiatrist right away

Here’s the thing about glass shards—even if you think you just stepped on one large piece, you may not see the tiny slivers that slipped off the shard, burying themselves under your skin. Embedded shards may be invisible to your eyes, but that doesn’t mean they won’t cause further damage to your foot if they stay under your skin.

For this reason, stepping on glass should definitely send you to your podiatrist’s office. Even if you are yourself a doctor, it’s almost impossible for a person to properly examine the bottom of his or her own foot. The human body just isn’t designed to bend and twist that way.

A podiatrist, on the other hand, can get up close and personal with the bottom of your foot, using proper lighting and, if necessary, magnifying tools to make sure every last bit of glass gets out of your foot. And, if your doctor finds a piece of glass stuck in your foot, he or she has access to sharp, sterile tools that can get the shard out quickly and safely.

Getting into Your Doctor’s Office

Of course, when you have glass in your foot, it can be tough to walk or drive yourself in to see your podiatrist.

So what can you do if you can’t get in to see your doctor right away?

If you’re bleeding heavily, call a friend or, if necessary, an ambulance, to get you into emergency care.

If you have a little leeway, try soaking your affected foot in warm, salty water for five to 10 minutes. This will safely disinfect your wound, helping prevent any kind of bacteria from getting into the open cut and causing infection.

After the soaking, do whatever you can to keep pressure off your affected foot—walking on the cut could push any embedded shards deeper into the skin, making it more difficult for your doctor to extract them later. This may mean limping, avoiding shoes, or even using crutches temporarily—the choices you make will depend on where your cut is located and how long it will take you to see your podiatrist.

After Care
Once all the glass has been safely removed, your doctor will likely clean the cut one more time. Depending on the size of the opening, he or she may suggest bandaging the area for safe healing. Now, all that’s left to do is follow your physician’s instructions (it will be important to keep your cut clean so it can heal properly.) And, of course, don’t forget to keep a tighter grip on your cup or plate the next time around!   

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