Fingernail Infection: Brief Version

What is a fingernail infection?

When your child has a fingernail infection, you usually see:

  • A pimple where the cuticle and the fingernail meet
  • Redness and tenderness around this area
  • Sometimes, pus may drain from this area, too.

The infection can be caused by bacteria or yeast.

How can I take care of my child?

It helps to soak your child’s sore finger in warm water and liquid antibacterial soap.

  • Soak your child’s sore finger 3 times a day for 15 minutes.
  • Do this for at least 4 days, or longer if it has not healed.

If your child has a bacterial infection:

  • Buy antibiotic ointment at the drugstore. Put ointment on the sore area 4 times a day.
  • Cover it with a bandage.

Open any small pimple. Here’s how:

  • Carefully clean a needle with rubbing alcohol or a flame.
  • Gently poke the needle into the pimple.
  • Let the pus drain out.
  • You may need to gently squeeze so that the pus comes out.

If your child has a yeast infection:

  • Put Lotrimin cream on the sore 3 times a day.
  • Keep the area dry.
  • Do not cover it with a bandage.

You can help keep your child from getting an infection again:

  • If you notice hangnails, cut them off with nail clippers.
  • Tell your child not to pick or chew at hangnails.

Call your child’s doctor right away if:

  • Your child gets a fever.
  • A red streak spreads beyond the cuticle.
  • Your child has a large pimple by the fingernail.

Call your child’s doctor during office hours if:

  • The infection has not gotten better after 48 hours.
  • The infection is not totally cleared up in 7 days.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
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: 2013-06-03
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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