Fingertip Injuries

Injuries to the tip of the finger are very common in children. The fingertip area includes the fingernail, the bone underneath the nail, and the skin and fat on the end of the finger. Wounds in this area usually heal well.

Do not remove the dressing placed on the finger in the emergency room. It must stay clean and dry. The bandage will be removed in the office about 5-10 days later.

Keep the hand elevated higher than the heart. Have your child use a sling when he/she is walking around. Prop your child's arms on pillows when he/she is sitting or lying down. This simple step will decrease both swelling and painful throbbing. Ice packs are helpful, too.

The pain usually decreases after the first 48 hours. During the first two days, pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) may be necessary. They can be given every 4-6 hours. Ask the doctor or nurse what dose is right for your child. If pain does not improve after an hour of elevation, ice, and pain medicine, contact your child's doctor.

Most fingertip injuries occur when a child is in dirty settings -- places where people are at risk for infection, tetanus, etc. Antibiotics should be taken as directed to prevent infection. 

The finger will need to be cleansed twice daily with an antibacterial soap and then be rebandaged.

If there is an open area, dress it with antibiotic ointment and a non-stick bandage. 

If the fingertip bone (distal phalanx) was broken, your child will need an aluminum-foam splint for three weeks. Place the splint on the palm side and wrap with a gauze wrap to keep it in place. Be careful not to place the wrap too tightly.

The thick skin on the hand heals by peeling off its outer layers. This cycle may repeat itself 2-3 times. The skin underneath will be a delicate pink color. During this peeling stage, moisturizer can help.

  • It will take 3-4 months for a new nail to grow back.
  • It will need a bandage until the edges are smooth and won't catch.
  • The new nail will knock off the old nail.
  • Do not trim the nail until it has grown out completely.

Last Updated 03/2020

Reviewed by Denise Bach, RN, Education Specialist II

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