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Your red and swollen fingernail may be caused by an infection or an injury. If you have an infection, you may have an ingrown nail. Other causes of fingernail infection include exposure to irritants, nail-biting or a torn-off hangnail. Treat your infected nail at home unless you have other health problems or if the infection becomes worse.
If you smash your finger, blood may build up under the nail, causing redness, swelling and pain. Act quickly to reduce swelling and pain.
Soak your finger in warm water four times daily. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that if the infection is caught early, you may be able to avoid taking antibiotics by soaking the nail and keeping it clean.
How to Kill Toe Nail Fungus
Pat your finger dry. Wedge a small piece of cotton or gauze under your nail if the infection is caused by an ingrown fingernail, suggests Drugs.com 2. If the nail is ingrown, continue placing cotton under it until your fingernail has grown long enough for you to trim it straight across. This will help prevent a recurrence.
Apply a small amount of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the swollen area of skin as well as to the edge of the affected fingernail. Wipe away any excess ointment.
Apply a bandage to your finger to keep the area clean. Put on a new bandage after each warm water soak, or if the bandage gets wet in between soakings. Remove the bandage at night to allow your fingernail to breathe. If you are treating for an ingrown fingernail, replace the cotton or gauze under your nail if it gets wet.
- Soak your finger in warm water four times daily.
- If you are treating for an ingrown fingernail, replace the cotton or gauze under your nail if it gets wet.
Swelling Caused by Injury
Apply ice as soon as possible, recommends the website Medline Plus. This will decrease pain and swelling.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain. Read all labels carefully and follow the directions to avoid overdosage.
Talk to your doctor about draining the fingernail if the pain and pressure become very intense. Do this by drilling or burning a tiny hole in the nail to allow accumulated blood to escape. Your health care practitioner will walk you through the procedure, and may give you a prescription for antibiotics if you must do this at home.
See your physician if you suspect that the finger is broken. Do not try to splint the finger on your own, cautions Medline Plus.
Do not attempt to drain your fingernail without the advice of your doctor. You may cause an infection or make an infection worse, or you may cause damage to the nail itself.
If you have diabetes, a suppressed immune system or circulatory problems, do not attempt to treat your red and swollen fingernail on your own. See your doctor promptly.
- Apply ice as soon as possible, recommends the website Medline Plus.
- See your physician if you suspect that the finger is broken.
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- Medline Plus: Smashed Fingers
- Drugs.com: Ingrown Nail Care Guide
- AAFP: Acute and Chronic Paronychia
- Dąbrowski M, Litowińska A. Recurrence and satisfaction with sutured surgical treatment of an ingrown toenail. Ann Med Surg (Lond). 2020 Jun 26;56:152-160. doi: 10.1016/j.amsu.2020.06.029. PMID: 32637092; PMCID: PMC7330155.
- Haneke E. Controversies in the treatment of ingrown nails. Dermatol Res Pract. 2012;2012:783924. doi: 10.1155/2012/783924. PMID: 22675345; PMCID: PMC3362847.
- Miquelão Canuto Verussa MJ, Biselli Boarini LM, Gabbi T. "Super U" technique for ingrown nails: a tertiary hospital experience between 2011 and 2018. Int J Dermatol. 2019 Oct 24. doi: 10.1111/ijd.14694. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 31650538.
- Arica IE, Bostanci S, Kocyigit P, Arica DA. Clinical and sociodemographic characteristics of patients with ingrown nails. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2019 May;109(3):201-206. doi: 10.7547/17-023. PMID: 31268783.
- Mayeaux EJ Jr, Carter C, Murphy TE. Ingrown toenail management. Am Fam Physician. 2019 Aug 1;100(3):158-164. PMID: 31361106.
- Sánchez LC, Zalacaín-Vicuña AJ. Onychoplasty with 1064-nm Laser: Matrixectomy for Treatment of Ingrown Toenails. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2019 Sep;109(5):401-406. doi: 10.7547/17-008. PMID: 31599675.
- Muriel-Sánchez JM, Becerro-de-Bengoa-Vallejo R, Montaño-Jiménez P, Coheña-Jiménez M. The treatment of ingrown nail: Chemical matricectomy with phenol versus aesthetic reconstruction. A single blinded randomized clinical trial. J Clin Med. 2020 Mar 20;9(3):845. doi: 10.3390/jcm9030845. PMID: 32244966; PMCID: PMC7141528.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. Ingrown toenails. January 4, 2018.
Michelle Kulas worked in the health-care field for 10 years, serving as a certified nurses' assistant, dental assistant and dental insurance billing coordinator. Her areas of expertise include health and dental topics, parenting, nutrition, homeschooling and travel.