If you injure your hand, there are a number of things you can do. If your injury is too serious to do these things yourself, have someone else help.
When Should I Call 911?
- If you are seriously injured.
- If the injury includes amputation.
- If a bone is sticking out of the skin.
- If bleeding hasn’t stopped after several minutes of firm pressure.
- If blood spurts from the wound.
- The skin under the fingernail is blue.
- If the hand feels numb or cold.
What Should I Do for Cuts?
- Apply direct pressure until bleeding stops.
- Remove rings and bracelets that may slow blood flow or compress nerves if swelling happens later.
- Clean area with warm water and soap.
- Apply antibiotic ointment and a sterile bandage.
- Apply ice and elevate hand to reduce swelling.
- If a finger or part of a finger has been cut off, collect all parts and tissue and put it in a plastic bag on ice for transport to the hospital.
- See a health care provider immediately for a deep cut, puncture wound, animal bite, human bite, or a scrape that you can’t get clean, or if the cut shows signs of infection.
What Should I Do for Sprains, Finger Dislocations, or Fractures?
- Apply ice to reduce swelling.
- Keep the finger elevated above the heart.
- If the finger is bent or deformed, don't try to straighten it.
- See a doctor immediately.
What Should I Do for an Infection?
See your health care provider if a hand injury shows signs of infection, including redness, swelling, warmth, or discharge.
How Do I Control Swelling?
- Apply an ice pack (don’t put ice directly against the skin).
- If possible, remove any jewelry immediately.
How Do I Immobilize the Hand?
If your hand is numb or cold or the skin under the fingernails is blue, don’t move it. Otherwise:
- Bend your arm at the elbow.
- Don’t try to straighten the hand if it’s bent or deformed.
- Have someone help you tie a splint on the lower arm with fabric or elastic bandages. Cardboard, rolled-up newspaper, or other stiff material can be used as a splint.
- Get some help making a sling and put your arm in it. Put the sling around your neck to keep your arm bent.
When Are Other Times I Need to Get Medical Help?
See a health care professional immediately for any hand injury if:
- Your hand or fingers won’t move.
- New symptoms appear and won’t go away.
What Will Happen When I Go to the Doctor?
If you see a doctor, the next steps depend on the nature of the hand injury and how serious it is.
- For bites, puncture wounds, burns, and some other hand injuries, the health care professional will give a tetanus shot or booster if you haven’t had one recently. They will also clean the wound and remove embedded dirt and debris.
- For a fracture or dislocation, a doctor will X-ray the hand and may put on a splint or cast.
- The doctor will check for feeling and range of motion in the hand to figure out whether there has been nerve or tendon damage.
- To prevent or treat an infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
- Surgery may be needed for some hand injuries.
- Physical therapy or occupational therapy may be prescribed to help regain full function.