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Home Treatment for a Torn or Detached Nail

Try home treatment for a torn or detached nail:

  • File any sharp edges smooth or trim the nail. This will help prevent catching the nail and tearing it more.
  • Trim off the detached part of a large tear or leave the nail alone.
    • Cover the nail with tape or an adhesive bandage until the nail has grown out enough to protect the finger or toe.
    • If you trim off the detached nail, you will have less worry about the nail catching and tearing.
    • If you leave the detached nail in place, it will eventually fall off when the new nail grows in.
  • Use scissors to remove the detached part of the nail if the nail is partly attached.
  • Soak your finger or toe in cold water for 20 minutes after trimming the nail.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment, such as Bacitracin, and cover the area with a nonstick adhesive bandage.

To prevent infection:

  • Soak your foot or hand in a solution of 1 tsp (5 g) of salt dissolved in 4 cups (1 L) warm water for 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times each day, for the next 3 days. Reapply an antibiotic ointment, and cover with a fresh adhesive bandage.
  • Keep the nail bed clean and covered with antibiotic ointment and an adhesive bandage until the nail bed is firm or the nail has grown back. Apply a new adhesive bandage whenever it gets wet.
  • Watch for signs of infection such as increasing heat, redness, pain, tenderness, swelling, or pus.
  • Remove an artificial nail if it separates from the nail bed. If you leave it on, the long, artificial nail can tear the nail bed.

Have a doctor trim your nail if you:

  • Are not comfortable trimming the nail yourself.
  • Have diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or an immune system problem.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised October 12, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 12, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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