Children's Hospital Colorado

Finger Injury

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • Injuries to fingers

Types of Finger Injuries

  • Cuts, Scrapes (skinned knuckles) and Bruises. These are the most common injuries.
  • Jammed Finger. The end of a straightened finger or thumb receives a blow. Most often, this is from a ball. The energy is absorbed by the joint surface and the injury occurs there. This is called traumatic arthritis. For jammed fingers, always check that the fingertip can be fully straightened.
  • Crushed or Smashed Fingertip. Most often, this is from a car door or a screen door. The end of the finger may get a few cuts or a blood blister. Sometimes, the nail can be damaged. Broken bones are not common with this kind of injury. If they do occur, they are at risk for a bone infection (osteomyelitis).
  • Fingernail Injury. If the nailbed is cut, it needs sutures to prevent a deformed fingernail.
  • Subungual Hematoma (Blood Clot under the Nail). Most often caused by a crush injury. This can be from a door crushing the finger. It can also be from a heavy object falling on the nailbed. Many are only mildly painful. Some are severely painful and throbbing. These need the pressure under the nail released. This can relieve the pain and prevent loss of the fingernail.
  • Dislocations. The finger has been pushed out of its joint.
  • Fractures. Finger has a broken bone.

Pain Scale

  • Mild: Your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.

Go to ER Now

  • Bleeding won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Looks like a broken bone or dislocated joint

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Large swelling is present
  • Blood under a nail is causing more than mild pain
  • Fingernail is torn
  • Base of fingernail has popped out from under the skin fold
  • Cut over knuckle of hand
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Can't open and close the hand or use the fingers normally
  • Severe pain and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Age less than 1 year old
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in over 5 years
  • Clean cut and no tetanus shot in over 10 years
  • Pain not better after 3 days
  • Not using the finger normally after 2 weeks
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor finger injury

Care Advice for Minor Finger Injuries

  1. What You Should Know About Finger Injuries:
    • There are many ways that children can hurt their fingers.
    • There are also many types of finger injuries.
    • You can treat minor finger injuries at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed.
  3. Bruised/Swollen Finger:
    • Soak in cold water for 20 minutes.
    • Repeat as needed.
  4. Small Cuts or Scratches:
    • For any bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound. Use a gauze pad or clean cloth. Press down firmly on the place that is bleeding for 10 minutes. This is the best way to stop bleeding. Keep using pressure until the bleeding stops.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • For any dirt in the wound, scrub gently.
    • For any cuts, use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed.
    • Cover it with a bandage (such as Band-Aid). Change daily.
  5. Jammed Finger:
    • Caution: Be certain range of motion is normal. Your child should be able to bend and straighten each finger. If movement is limited, your doctor must check for a broken bone.
    • Soak the hand in cold water for 20 minutes.
    • If the pain is more than mild, "buddy-tape" it to the next finger.
  6. Smashed or Crushed Fingertip:
    • Wash the finger with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • For any cuts, use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed.
    • Cover it with a bandage (such as Band-Aid).
  7. Torn Nail (from catching it on something):
    • For a cracked nail without rough edges, leave it alone.
    • For a large flap of nail that's almost torn through, cut it off. Use a pair of scissors that have been cleaned. Cut along the line of the tear. Reason: Pieces of nail taped in place will catch on objects.
    • Soak the finger for 20 minutes in cold water for pain relief.
    • Use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed. Then cover with a bandage (such as Band-Aid). Change daily.
    • After about 7 days, the nailbed should be covered by new skin. It should no longer hurt. A new nail will grow in over 6 to 8 weeks.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain not better after 3 days
    • Finger not normal after 2 weeks
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Care Advice for Minor Finger Injuries

First Aid - Bleeding Finger
  • Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a sterile gauze dressing or a clean cloth.
First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport
  • Step 1: Briefly rinse amputated part with water (to remove any dirt)
  • Step 2: Place amputated part in plastic bag (to protect and keep clean)
  • Step 3: Place plastic bag containing the part in a container of ice (to keep cool and preserve tissue).

Note: Take patient and amputated part to emergency department immediately.

First Aid - Removing a Splinter

You can remove splinters, larger slivers, and thorns with a needle and tweezers. Check the tweezers beforehand to be certain the ends (pickups) meet exactly. (If they do not, bend them.) Sterilize the tools with rubbing alcohol or a flame.

Clean the skin surrounding the sliver briefly with rubbing alcohol before trying to remove it. Be careful not to push the splinter in deeper. If you don't have rubbing alcohol, use soap and water, but don't soak the area if FB is wood (Reason: can cause swelling of the splinter).

Remove the splinter:

  • Step 1: Use the needle to completely expose the large end of the sliver. Use good lighting. A magnifying glass may help.
  • Step 2: Then grasp the end firmly with the tweezers and pull it out at the same angle that it went in. Getting a good grip the first time is especially important with slivers that go in perpendicular to the skin or those trapped under the fingernail.


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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