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Nail Injuries (cont.)

When Should I Call the Doctor About a Fingernail or Toenail Injury?

If the qualifications for home care are met (See "Self-Care at Home" below), then a visit to the doctor is indicated only in the following cases.

  • It has been more than ten years since your last tetanus booster shot.
  • Infection, redness, or drainage develops at the site of the injury two to seven days later.
  • The injured person has diabetes, has poor circulation, AIDS, is on chemotherapy, or has another reason for poor healing or increased risk of infection.

Most nail injuries are best managed in a hospital's emergency department instead of at the doctor's office. You should be seen within six hours and can be transported by private vehicle. Calling an ambulance is unnecessary unless there are other more serious injuries. Anything worse than a small nail bruise should be brought to the emergency department for evaluation and repair. This includes the following examples.

  • Any laceration (cut) or amputation of the nail, the nail bed, or the skin surrounding the nail
  • Any part of the nail sticking out of the skin or pulled off the nail bed (nail avulsion)
  • A nail bruise that takes up more than 25% of the total nail and that you would like to be drained
  • Any bend or deformity in the fingertip indicating that the bone may be broken
  • Any injury caused by a human bite or animal bite
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/19/2016
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