Finger or Toe Injury: Brief Version

A jammed finger is a finger joint injury from a direct blow to a straightened finger. A crushed fingertip occurs when a fingertip is caught in a door. Injuries to the nail bed usually need stitches.

How can I help my child?

  • Bruised, jammed, or crushed finger or toe. Soak it in cold water for 20 minutes. Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) as needed for pain. Call the doctor if the pain doesn’t improve in 3 days.
  • Torn nail. If the nail is almost torn through or there is a large flap of nail, use sterile scissors to cut along the line of the tear. Sterilize the scissors by cleaning them with rubbing alcohol. Don’t tape pieces of nail in place because they will catch on objects. Soak the finger 20 minutes in cold water. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a Band-Aid. Each day, remove the bandage and soak the finger in warm water with a pinch of salt. Call your child’s doctor if you see any signs of infection.
  • Cuts. Wash the wound by scrubbing with soap and water for 5 minutes. Then apply pressure for 10 minutes with a clean cloth (sterile gauze if you have it) to stop bleeding. Protect with a Band-Aid.
  • Skinned knuckles (deep scrapes). Scrub the wound for 5 minutes with water and liquid soap. Flaps of skin (especially if dirty) should be cut off with sterile scissors. When the wound is clean, apply pressure for 10 minutes with a sterile gauze to stop any bleeding. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a Band-Aid. Remove the bandage and clean the wound each day. Call your child’s doctor if you see any signs of infection.

Call your child’s doctor right away if:

  • The skin is split open and may need stitches.
  • Blood collects under a nail AND becomes very painful.
  • There is any dirt or grime in the wound you can’t get out.
  • A crush injury has damaged the skin or fingernail.
  • A finger can’t be opened and closed completely.

Call your child’s doctor during office hours if:

  • The injury looks infected.
  • Your child is not using the finger or toe normally after 1 week.
  • You think your child may need a tetanus shot.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2007-03-23
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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