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Mallet Finger in Children: Care Instructions


Mallet finger is a bent fingertip. It is caused by a fractured bone or torn tendon at the base of the finger joint near the fingertip. The injury can happen when your child's finger is bent with force, such as when trying to catch a ball and the fingertip is struck by the ball. It also is called baseball finger or drop finger.

Treatment includes wearing a splint for several weeks to keep the finger straight. Surgery may be needed if pieces of bone break off during the injury or if treatment with the splint does not work. Usually only a splint is needed.

It is very important for your child to wear and take care of the splint exactly as your doctor says so that the finger heals properly and is no longer bent. Wearing a splint may interfere with your child's normal activities. Have your child ask for help with daily tasks if needed.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's 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 your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If the doctor put a splint on your child's finger, make sure your child wears the splint exactly as directed. Do not let your child remove it until the doctor says it is okay.
  • Keep your child's hand raised above the level of their heart as much as possible. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's finger for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin. Keep the splint dry.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child's finger is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your child's pain gets much worse.
  • Your child has tingling or numbness in the finger.
  • Your child has signs of infection. These include:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits.
    • A fever.

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

  • Your child has more pain and swelling than the doctor told you to expect.

Where can you learn more?

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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.