Most parents are familiar with the ear-piercing scream of a child who has closed a finger in a door, smashed it under a brick, banged it with a hammer or slammed it beneath a skateboard. But most parents aren't quite sure exactly what medical attention, if any, is needed when fingers are smashed.
According to the pediatricians at Boys Town Pediatrics, most incidents involving a smashed finger do not call for the attention of a doctor. Most likely the only damage will be swelling and bruising of the soft tissue of the finger and the bones underneath and some minor cuts and blood blisters. In such instances, soaking the finger in cold water immediately after the accident and taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help to relieve the pain and swelling. No further treatment is usually needed. Some injuries, however, are more serious and will need medical attention.
Caring for a Smashed Finger
Clean and Bandage the Wound
- Apply pressure to the cut with sterile gauze for 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. Remove all dirt and grime to prevent infection. Clean the cut with soap and water for five minutes. Apply an antibiotic and a bandage.
- If the skin is open the finger may need stitches. Wrap the finger in a sterile bandage and see a doctor right away if bleeding doesn't stop.
Treating Swelling and Bruising of the Finger
- Soak the finger in cold water or apply an icepack for no longer than 10 minutes twice a day.
Fingernail Injuries and Blood Clots Under the Nail
- If the injury is severely painful and the finger is throbbing, a doctor may need to relieve the pressure and it is likely your child will eventually lose the nail.
- Unless the cuticle of a fingernail is destroyed, the nail will grow back. Regrowth takes 4-6 weeks. Place any dangling part of the nail back on a clean nail bed and apply a bandage. The new nail will grow underneath the old nail and lift it up.
- If it appears the cuticle is damaged or you are unsure, see a doctor.
- Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to manage
- Icing the finger can reduce long-term pain and swelling
When to Call Your Pediatrician?
Most smashed finger injuries can be treated at home. However, there are some cases where you should have the finger examined by a pediatrician. Call your doctor if:
- Bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes of applied pressure
- Finger looks broken or dislocated
- Finger does not regain full range of motion within 1 week
- There is dirt or other contaminants in the wound that you cannot remove
- Cuticle appears damaged or destroyed
- You notice increased pain, swelling, redness or drainage from the injured area
- Your child develops a fever within 24-72 hours after the injury