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Felon Infection: Care Instructions

Felon on pad of fingertip, with detail of inside finger showing infected areas of tissue


An infection of the pad of the finger is called a felon. The finger is made up of several small areas of tissue. Because of this, pus from an infection can build up with no place to go. Then the infection can spread deeper into the finger. Sometimes it can spread into the bone.

A finger infection can happen after a cut, a scrape, a puncture, or some other injury. Sometimes the cause isn't known.

Your finger may be painful and red. Mild finger infections may be treated with antibiotics alone. You also may soak your finger in warm water.

If the infection is deeper or there is a lot of pus, the doctor may open the area to drain the pus. This is sometimes done in an operating room.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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 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.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Prop up your hand on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep the area above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • 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 area with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • Cover with a non-stick bandage.
  • If the area was packed with gauze:
    • Go to your follow-up appointments to have the gauze changed or removed.
    • Your doctor may ask you to remove the gauze. If so, gently pull out all of the gauze when your doctor tells you to.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs that the infection is getting worse, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

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

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.