Help with fingernail injury
July 6, 2014 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Last week I was trying to open a box and got a piece of plastic strapping jammed under my thumbnail. I think it may be infected now and there's some painful flesh sticking out the side.

The plastic went about halfway up at the corner of my nail and out the side. About 1/5 or less of the nail was probably detached. It hurt a bit at the time, but I wasn't too concerned especially since it was mostly at the edge of my nail and nothing was stuck in there. A day later and it was starting to hurt again and there was now a small abcess sticking out the side. I am not sure if this is part of my cuticle but it is really painful and I can see a small blood vessel in it. It's really small but after 3 days it is not healing. The side of my thumb is red and I am assuming there is some infection under the nail although nothing comes out if I squeeze the area. I have been keeping it in a bandaid with antibiotic ointment and also rinsing it with really hot water a few times a day. Anything else I can do to treat it? I might have to get it checked out at the doctor but I don't want to take antibiotics if I can avoid it because I am 5 months pregnant and I always end up with other side effects from antibiotics. Help, it hurts!
posted by photoexplorer to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
If you are pregnant go to the doctor. You do not want to risk the infection spreading. It probobly is small and simple but let the doctor tell you that.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:10 PM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I will but can I do anything before my appointment? It won't be at least until tomorrow evening.
posted by photoexplorer at 8:16 PM on July 6, 2014

Soak it in hot salt water. I mean soak until it goes pruny and the water is no longer hot, not just rinse. I have done this for other finger injuries and it is amazing how well it works. Not instant relief, but do it a couple of times a day and you should start to see reduced swelling and inflammation. But it is good you are going to see the doctor.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Really what your doing will probobly/ most likely be fine through tomarrow evening. Of course if you start running a fever or the infection site gets bigger get seen immediately. If it would be easier a urgent care clinic would probobly do just fine. Depending on the clinic you may get seen a little faster.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:50 PM on July 6, 2014

Cleaning it with water and soap, rinsing, drying and putting antibiotic ointment is what I would do while I wait a day for a doctor's appointment. I mean, maybe clean it with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol? That should disinfect it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:24 PM on July 6, 2014

Definitely get it checked out by a doctor just in case. My guess is that the injury site wants to swell, but is confined by the hard structure of the nail, which is creating a lot of discomfort and redness. You might try taking icing it instead of heating it; if the problem is swelling, that will help.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:16 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, I don't think you need to worry about the water being REALLY hot. As suggested, an extended soak in very warm salt water (not scalding) will do much more than a quick rinse in hot water.
posted by dahliachewswell at 10:31 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had a nasty infection under my nail a few years ago. I tried soaking and using an antibiotic ointment, which helped a little, but didn't reach under the nail. I was prescribed an antibiotic mixed with... something... that helped it get under the nail and it cleared up quickly with none of the side effects I usually get when taking an antibiotic orally.

My best advice is just to keep it super clean until you can go to the doctor. Washing the dishes and cooking irritated the area, so cover it up when you do anything like that and keep it as dry as possible other than some good soaks.
posted by ohisee at 10:32 PM on July 6, 2014

I get these often-ish.

- soak in decently hot water, sometimes salty water can be helpful
- keep it very clean & keep a bandage and antibiotic ointment on it
- for under-the-nail infections, usually you can help things if you get a piece of sterile gauze/cotton and sort of push it under the nail so it can drain and so it can heal.

It will hurt normally, the only "doctor, STAT!" thing you have to look out for is if you have red lines shooting up your hand/arm. This happened to me once, I went to the ER and they gave me a penicillin injection which really helped.
posted by jessamyn at 8:34 AM on July 7, 2014

But what about the piece of cuticle sticking out the side? Will that go away eventually? It doesn't seem to be a standard nail infection, the side was injured and I'm worried it won't go back to normal again.
posted by photoexplorer at 10:05 AM on July 7, 2014

I don't know what you're describing, but if something is sticking out where it shouldn't be, I'd remove it and let it heal. When I was a kid, I got a huge gash in my leg that left a small chunk of my leg skin area sort of hanging off. My parents flapped it over and let it heal that way (it was not remotely serious enough to see a doctor about) and then it healed like that as a bump. It looked ugly after it healed. I would've rather just had a scar and later had the bump removed by a plastic surgeon... which left a scar.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:28 AM on July 7, 2014

I injured my toe last year and ended up with something similar to what I think you have – the nail pulled away from the nail bed and the swelling pushed the flesh out from under the side of the nail. It was very, very painful and alarming to look at, a red, raw bump of flesh. I did a lot of what is being suggested here – warm water soaks, antibiotic ointment – and the swelling went down after a few days and then it just went back under the toenail. The toe is totally normal now.
posted by Sabby at 10:33 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the help everyone. The salt water soaks ended up working so well that I cancelled my doctor's appointment and the bit on the side came off like a scab. Almost healed now.
posted by photoexplorer at 7:50 AM on July 10, 2014

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