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First Aid & Emergencies

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Nail Injuries Treatment

Call 911 if:

  • The fingertip or toe has been partially or completely amputated.
  • Major bleeding doesn't stop after 10 minutes of pressure.

  • The fingertip or toe has been partially or completely amputated.
  • Major bleeding doesn't stop after 10 minutes of pressure.

1. When to See a Health Care Provider

Go to an emergency room or call a health care provider quickly if:

  • The finger or toe is deformed, which may indicate fracture or dislocation.
  • The wound looks deep or long enough to need stitches.
  • Discoloration or a bruise under the nail covers more than a quarter of the nail or there is continuing, intense pain.
  • The nail is completely torn off or partially cut off from a crush injury or cut.

2. Stop Bleeding

  • Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth.

3. Clean and Protect the Wound

  • If the nail is torn, use sterile scissors to cut off rough edges to prevent further injury.
  • Clean the wound and torn nail area with soap and warm water.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment and bandage.

4. Treat Symptoms

  • For swelling, ice the area.

5. Follow Up

  • Continue to use ice and over-the-counter pain medication as needed. Pain and swelling should clear up within a week. It can take several months for a nail that has separated from the nailbed to grow back.
  • Change the bandage daily. If signs of infection develop -- such as pus, redness, or heat around the nail or a red streak extending from the wound -- call a health care provider promptly.
  • The person may need a tetanus shot or booster, depending on the date of last booster shot.
  • If the person sees a health care provider, the health care provider will determine if there is a fracture or if tissue under the nail needs repair and may remove the nail to make the repair. The health care provider may make a hole in the nail to drain blood and give a tetanus shot if needed.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on January 23, 2016

First Aid A-Z

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