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Finger or Toe Injury

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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

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First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport
First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport :: LMS Inc. :: (click image to see Copyright)

First Aid - Bleeding Finger
First Aid - Bleeding Finger :: LMS Inc. :: (click image to see Copyright)

First Aid - Bleeding Toe
First Aid - Bleeding Toe :: LMS Inc. :: (click image to see Copyright)

First Aid - Removing a Splinter
First Aid - Removing a Splinter :: LMS Inc. :: (click image to see Copyright)

Definition

  • Injuries to fingers or toes

Types of Finger / Toe Injuries

  • Cuts, scrapes (skinned knuckles) and bruises: the most common injuries

  • Jammed finger or toe: The end of a straightened finger or thumb receives a blow (usually from a ball). The energy is absorbed by the joints' surfaces and the injury occurs there. For jammed fingers, always check carefully that the end of the finger can be fully straightened.

  • Crushed or smashed fingertip or toe (e.g., from car door or screen door): Usually the end of the finger receives a few cuts or a blood blister. Occasionally the nail is damaged, but fractures are unusual.

  • Fingernail injury: If the nailbed is cut, it needs sutures to prevent a permanently deformed fingernail.  This is less important for toenails.

  • Blood clot under the nail: Usually caused by a crush injury from a door or a heavy object falling on the finger while it is on a firm surface. Many are only mildly painful. Some are severely painful and throbbing.  These need the pressure released to prevent loss of the fingernail and to relieve the pain.

  • Fractures or dislocations

If not, see these topics

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When to Call Your Doctor

call now

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 that's present under a nail

  • Fingernail is torn

  • Dirt or grime in wound is not removed after 15 minutes of scrubbing

  • Finger joint can't be opened (straightened) and closed (bent) completely

  • Toe injury that causes bad limp or can't wear shoes

  • Pain is SEVERE (and not improved after 2 hours of pain medicine)

  • Age under 1 year old

  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

call within 24 hours

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 within 24 hours

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

  • No tetanus shot in over 5 years for DIRTY cuts (over 10 years for CLEAN cuts)

  • Pain not improving after 3 days

  • Not using the finger or toe normally after 1 week

home care

Parent Care at Home If

  • Minor finger or toe injury and you don't think your child needs to be seen

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HOME CARE ADVICE FOR MINOR FINGER/TOE INJURIES

  1. Bruised/Swollen Finger or Toe:

    • Soak in cold water for 20 minutes.

    • Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as necessary for pain relief.

  2. Superficial Cuts:

    • Apply direct pressure for 10 minutes with a sterile gauze to stop any bleeding.

    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.

    • For any dirt in the wound, scrub gently.

    • Cover any cuts with an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed). Then apply a Band-Aid. Change daily.

  3. Jammed Finger or Toe:

    • Caution: be certain range of motion is normal (can bend and straighten each finger). If movement is limited, must check for a fracture.

    • Soak the hand or foot in cold water for 20 minutes.

    • Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as necessary for pain relief.

    • If the pain is more than mild, protect it by "buddy-taping" 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 cleaned with rubbing alcohol.

    • Cover any cuts with an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed). Then apply a Band-Aid. Change daily.

    • Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as necessary for pain relief.

  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, use a sterile scissors to cut it off 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.

    • Apply an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed). Then cover with a Band-Aid. Change daily.

    • After about 7 days, the nailbed should be covered by new skin and no longer hurt. A new nail will grow in over 6 to 8 weeks.

  6. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as needed for pain relief.

  7. Shoes: If regular shoes cause too much pain, wear open-toe sandals with a firm sole until the injury heals.

  8. Call Your Doctor If:

    • Pain becomes severe

    • Pain not improving after 3 days

    • Not using the finger or toe normally after 1 week

    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Akin, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith, RN, MSN, FNP, CCRC
Last Review Date: 2/21/2012
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.