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First Aid and Emergencies

Blood Under a Nail

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Fingernails and toenails often get crunched, bashed, or smashed. These injuries usually aren't too serious, but if there is bleeding under the nail, the pressure can be very painful. The only way to relieve the throbbing and pain is by making a hole in the nail to drain the blood.

Draining is helpful only if you have severe, throbbing pain (you can feel the pulse beating under the nail) that is bad enough to keep you from sleeping. If you aren't having a lot of pain, draining the nail is not recommended.

Use a red-hot paper clip to relieve the pain caused by blood under a fingernail or toenail.

Home Treatment

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  • Apply ice and elevate the injured area as soon as possible to minimize swelling and relieve pain. Acetaminophen will also ease discomfort.

  • If you have severe, throbbing pain, make a hole in the nail to relieve the pressure. (Do not do this unless you are confident you can do it without burning yourself. Do not do this if you have diabetes or circulation problems.) Follow these steps:

    • Straighten a paper clip and heat the tip in a flame until it is red-hot.

    • Place the tip of the paper clip on the nail and let it melt through. You do not need to push. This will not be painful, because the nail has no nerves. Go slowly and reheat the clip as necessary. A thick nail may take several tries.

    • As soon as the hole is complete, blood will escape and the pain will be relieved. If your pain is not relieved by this procedure, you may have a more serious injury, such as a broken finger or toe or a deep cut. In this case, you should see your doctor.

    • Soak the finger 3 times a day in a half-and-half mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm water.

    • If the pressure builds up again in a few days, repeat the procedure, using the same hole.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If blood under a nail is causing severe pain and you are not willing to drain the blood from the nail yourself.

  • If you drained the blood from under the nail, but your fingertip or the tip of your toe still hurts a lot.

  • If you smashed your toenail and you have a condition such as diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, which decreases blood flow to the feet.

  • If signs of infection develop:

    • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or tenderness.

    • Heat or red streaks extending from the injured area.

    • Discharge of pus.

    • Fever of 37.8°C (100°F) or higher with no other cause.

  • If your nail has torn or separated from the nail bed and you need help removing it.