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Nail Injuries

1. When to See a Health Care Provider

Go to an emergency room or call a health care provider quickly if:

The finger or toe is deformed, which may indicate fracture or dislocation.
The wound looks deep or long enough to need stitches.
Discoloration or a bruise under the nail covers more than a quarter of the nail or there is continuing, intense pain.
The nail is completely torn off or partially cut off from a crush injury or cut.


2. Stop Bleeding

Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth.


3. Clean and Protect the Wound


If the nail is torn, use sterile scissors to cut off rough edges to prevent further injury.
Clean the wound and torn nail area with soap and warm water.
Apply antibiotic ointment and bandage.
 

4. Treat Symptoms


For swelling, ice the area.
For pain, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
 

5. Follow Up


Continue to use ice and over-the-counter pain medication as needed. Pain and swelling should clear up within a week. It can take several months for a nail that has separated from the nailbed to grow back.
Change the bandage daily. If signs of infection develop -- such as pus, redness, or heat around the nail or a red streak extending from the wound -- call a health care provider promptly.
The person may need a tetanus shot or booster, depending on the date of last booster shot.
If the person sees a health care provider, the health care provider will determine if there is a fracture or if tissue under the nail needs repair and may remove the nail to make the repair. The health care provider may make a hole in the nail to drain blood and give a tetanus shot if needed.

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