When a Smashed Finger Requires a Doctor’s Attention

Dr. Greene’s take on when a doctor needs to look at a smashed finger…

In the great flurry of childhood activity (don’t you wish you had some of their energy?), smashed fingers and toes are common and memorable events. Whether trapped in doors, banged by hammers, or hit by bricks, some nails re-grow beautifully while others are permanently misshapen.

With most of these accidents, swelling and bruising of the soft tissues and underlying bones are the only injuries. Soaking the finger or toe in cold water immediately after the trauma can reduce both pain and swelling. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen administered right away can also help prevent some of the pain. While taking care of these things (and administering a few hugs and kisses for good measure), you can decide whether or not your child needs to see a doctor.

When to see a doctor:

  • Blood collects under the nail, causing increasing pain.
  • The finger or toe can’t be straightened and bent easily.
  • The finger or toe looks crooked.
  • The injury causes immediate damage to the nail, such as a visible crack.
  • The skin is open and may need stitches.
  • There is dirt in the wound you can’t wash out.
  • There is significant or worsening pain, redness, or swelling.
Medical Review on: July 02, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

I smashed my finger at work on a Saturday evening. The pain right away was and is unforgettable. I felt a mild sharp pain as I worked through the evening. The next day the finger tip was more tender and swollen. I used a bag of ice to try to calm the agitation my finger tip had. The pain did get a little worse, and unfortunately, working and using my hands did not help the situation I bet. It is almost Tuesday, the finger is still swollen and i still feel at times, throbbing and sharp pains once in a while. I am still able to move the finger and even straighten it out with feeling stiffness and soreness pain as I do. Underneath the nail, seems to look like a bruise is growing and only the finger tip is swollen. Please advise what i should do, I would love to heal up soon rather then later but i understand these things take time. I just want to make sure I am making the right choices and that my finger does heal up