June 16, 2011 11:58 AM   Subscribe

I accidentally drove a sliver of wood up under my fingernail. Now it hurts. Am I doomed?

So I'm reaching for the cabinet door under the sink, and I miss the handle and rake my fingernails across the door instead. (The wood on this thing is ancient.) My middle fingernail catches on a sliver of wood, which drives up underneath the nail, scraping the bed.

I was able to pull the sliver out, and it doesn't look like it bled at all, which is good. However, over the course of the day it's hurting more and more. Anyway:

(1) Is there any way to treat this? I could try to put some Neosporin around the nail, but I'm not sure how I would be able to get it far enough into the nail bed to actually treat the injured area.

(2) What are the chances that I'm going to get some kind of horrible infection and have my finger amputated?
posted by Pants McCracky to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
I've done this, and it hurts like crazy. The answer to both of your numbered questions is "probably not."
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:00 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alas, I've done this more times that I care to recall. Its good you got it out, after that, I've usually experienced some residual pain and/or swelling. I'd be careful to keep the area very clean, perhaps soak it in a bath of warm water and iodine and keep an eye on it. Take an aspirin to help with pain and swelling, if you haven't had an updated tetnus shot in a while, it'd be a decent time to get a booster.
posted by stormygrey at 12:01 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your best bet is to wash a number of times a day for at least 20 seconds - warm water, plenty of soap, wash the whole hand and get suds under that nail as best you can.

If you're able to cover it with a bandage for a day or two (between washings) just to keep from sticking your finger into all the dirt in the world, that helps.

But people get splinters under their nails all the time, and I don't think splintery finger death is a particularly common affliction.

The reason it hurts so damn much is that it's trying to swell but doesn't have anywhere to go. Ice may help, as will ibuprofen or naproxen.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:03 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

These things just hurt like a sunnuvabitch, but they go away after a few days. If it gets infected, you can take it into the ED and have them deal with it, but it's pretty unlikely.
posted by valkyryn at 12:18 PM on June 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, guys. I'm paranoid about stuff like this -- I guess I've read too many stories about people getting horrific infections from seemingly minor injuries.
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:28 PM on June 16, 2011

Keep it clean and you should be okay. If it gets infected, have it looked at. Fingertips are very sensitive, with loads of nerve endings, so a splinter there hurts more than a lot of other places.

In the meantime, stomping around and swearing up a storm may not make you feel better, but it might feel good anyway.
posted by cmyk at 12:51 PM on June 16, 2011

I had to have a splinter dug out by my Dr. the other week. It was just too deep to work it's way out in a reasonable amount of time. He also gave my a perscrip for antibiotics because it was a bit infected.
As long as you can stand it, just do what everyone is saying. If it starts to get red and a little puffy go get an oral antibiotic.

you'll be fine
posted by edgeways at 2:20 PM on June 16, 2011

posted by Sphinx at 8:06 PM on June 16, 2011

I've done this, and the splinter broke off where I tried to pull it, so the rest of it had to stay under my nail for a month. First-day increasing pain accords with my experience. Just keep an eye peeled for infection and you'll be OK.
posted by eritain at 8:56 PM on June 16, 2011

I've had this too. Throwing a tantrum helps with the pain and general yucky feeling of having had a piece of wood under your nail. It'll probably be a little red for a day or two but don't worry about an infection, maybe just check that it doesn't turn a weird color.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:47 PM on June 16, 2011

An acupuncturist told me years ago about how to deal with infections from little things like splinters, and I have used it countless times. Works like a charm.

Run water that's as hot as you can stand it over the immediate area 2 or 3 times a day and the infection will die. It works. I know it doesn't sound like much, it's not very techno, but the infection goes away, even if there's some splinter still left in there.

I've also had infections under the nail, which hurt like hell because the pus builds up and has no place to go until you give it a place by making a hole in your nail either of these 2 ways: drill a very small (1 mm or so) hole with a dremel or flexible shaft drill, OR straighten a paper clip , heat it on a gas stove until red hot (about 2 seconds) and while still hot, push it through the nail carefully. It will melt a hole. Just be careful to only go to where the pus comes out. The relief is instant in both cases.

Good luck.
posted by davoid at 12:17 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

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