Object Under Fingernail: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation

Your Care Instructions

Small pieces (splinters) of wood, metal, glass, or plastic can get stuck under a fingernail. Thorns from roses and other plants also can prick or become stuck in the skin. Splinters can cause pain and infection if they are not removed.

If your doctor removed part of your nail, it should grow back normally

As your wound heals, it may get a little red or swollen. But it should get better with time.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the wound with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Your doctor may have used medicine to numb your finger. When it wears off, your pain may come back. Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • It may help to prop up your hand on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your finger is cold or pale or changes colour.
  • You have new pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your finger.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the nail.
    • Red streaks leading from the nail.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You bleed through your bandage.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.
  • You think there is still something under the fingernail.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter J299 in the search box to learn more about "Object Under Fingernail: Care Instructions."