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Herpetic Whitlow: Care Instructions

Herpetic whitlow on top section of finger, with close-up of redness and blisters on skin

Your Care Instructions

Herpetic whitlow is a finger infection. It's usually caused by the herpes virus that causes cold sores. It can spread to a finger from a cold sore in or around your mouth. Whitlow also can be caused by the virus that causes genital herpes.

An area of your finger may be red. It may have a small group of blisters. Your finger also may hurt, itch, or tingle.

Your finger should get better on its own. This may take a few weeks. But whitlow may come back to the same area of your finger.

Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help fight the herpes virus. You may be asked to cover your finger with a bandage. This can avoid spreading the infection.

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?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Follow your doctor's advice to care for your finger. If you did not get instructions:
    • Wash the area with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the area with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have symptoms 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.
    • Fever.

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.

Where can you learn more?

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

Enter J826 in the search box to learn more about "Herpetic Whitlow: Care Instructions".

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.