Finger or Toe Injury  

This Care Guide Covers:

  • Injuries to fingers or toes

If not, see these topics
View images
First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport
First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport

First Aid - Bleeding Finger
First Aid - Bleeding Finger

First Aid - Bleeding Toe
First Aid - Bleeding Toe

First Aid - Removing a Splinter
First Aid - Removing a Splinter

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Bleeding won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Looks like a broken bone or dislocated joint
  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Large swelling is present
  • Blood under a nail is causing more than mild pain
  • Fingernail is torn
  • Base of fingernail has popped out from under the skin fold
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Can't open and close the hand or use the fingers normally
  • Toe injury that causes bad limp
  • Pain is SEVERE and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Age less than 1 year old
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • No tetanus shot in over 5 years for DIRTY cuts
  • No tetanus shot in over 10 years for CLEAN cuts
  • Pain not better after 3 days
  • Not using the finger or toe normally after 2 weeks
Parent Care at Home If
  • Minor finger or toe injury
Causes & Health Information

Types of Finger / Toe Injuries

  • Cuts, Scrapes (skinned knuckles) and Bruises. These are the most common injuries.
  • Jammed Finger or Toe. The end of a straightened finger or thumb receives a blow. Most often, this is from a ball. The energy is absorbed by the joint surface and the injury occurs there. For jammed fingers, always check that the fingertip can be fully straightened.
  • Crushed or Smashed Fingertip or Toe. Most often, this is from a car door or a screen door. The end of the finger may get a few cuts or a blood blister. Sometimes, the nail can be damaged. Broken bones are not common with this kind of injury.
  • Fingernail Injury. If the nailbed is cut, it needs sutures to prevent a deformed fingernail.  This is less important for toenails.
  • Blood Clot under the Nail. Most often caused by a crush injury. This can be from a door crushing the finger. It can also be from a heavy object falling on the nailbed. Many are only mildly painful. Some are severely painful and throbbing.  These need the pressure under the nail released. This can relieve the pain and prevent loss of the fingernail.
  • Fractures or Dislocations.
CARE ADVICE FOR MINOR FINGER OR TOE INJURIES

  1. Bruised/Swollen Finger or Toe:
    • Soak in cold water for 20 minutes.
    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.
  2. Small Cuts or Scratches:
    • For any bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound. Use a gauze pad or clean cloth. Press for 10 minutes.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • For any dirt in the wound, scrub gently.
    • For any cuts, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed.
    • Cover it with a Band-Aid. Change daily.
  3. Jammed Finger or Toe:
    • Caution: Be certain range of motion is normal. Your child should be able to bend and straighten each finger. If movement is limited, your doctor must check for a broken bone.
    • Soak the hand or foot in cold water for 20 minutes.
    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.
    • If the pain is more than mild, "buddy-tape" it to the next finger.
  4. Smashed or Crushed Fingertip or Toe:
    • Wash the finger (or toe) with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • Trim any small pieces of torn skin with a fine scissors. Clean them first with rubbing alcohol.
    • For any cuts, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed.
    • Cover it with a Band-Aid. Change daily.
    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.
  5. Torn Nail (from catching it on something):
    • For a cracked nail without rough edges, leave it alone.
    • For a large flap of nail that's almost torn through, cut it off. Use a pair of scissors that have been cleaned. Cut along the line of the tear. Reason: Pieces of nail taped in place will catch on objects.
    • Soak the finger or toe for 20 minutes in cold water for pain relief.
    • Use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed. Then cover with a Band-Aid. Change daily.
    • After about 7 days, the nailbed should be covered by new skin. It should no longer hurt. A new nail will grow in over 6 to 8 weeks.
  6. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.
  7. Shoes:
    • If normal shoes cause too much pain, wear open-toe sandals.
    • Use sandals with a firm sole until the injury heals.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain not better after 3 days
    • Finger or toe not normal after 2 weeks
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.