What Should I Do for a Hand Injury?

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 15, 2021
3 min read

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

See your health care provider if a hand injury shows signs of infection, including redness, swelling, warmth, or discharge.

  • Apply an ice pack (don’t put ice directly against the skin).
  • If possible, remove any jewelry immediately.

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.

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.

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.