Fingertip Infection

When an infection is around the nail, it is called a paronychia. When it appears over the tip of the finger, it is called a felon. These infections are due to minor injuries or cracks in the skin. If they are not treated properly, they can lead to bone infection and permanent damage to the fingernail.

Incision and drainage is necessary if a pus pocket (an abscess) has formed. Antibiotics and pain medicine may also be needed. Keep your hand elevated for the next 2-3 days to reduce swelling and pain. If a pack was placed in the abscess, it should be removed in 1-2 days by your caregiver. Soak the finger in warm water for 20 minutes 4 times daily to help promote drainage.

Keep the hands as dry as possible. Wear protective gloves with cotton liners. See your caregiver for follow-up care as recommended.


  • Keep wound clean, dry and dressed as suggested by your caregiver.

  • Soak in warm salt water for fifteen minutes, four times per day for bacterial infections.

  • Your caregiver will prescribe an antibiotic if a bacterial infection is suspected. Take antibiotics as directed and finish the prescription, even if the problem appears to be improving before the medicine is gone.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.


  • There is redness, swelling, or increasing pain in the wound.

  • Pus or any other unusual drainage is coming from the wound.

  • An unexplained oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C) develops.

  • You notice a foul smell coming from the wound or dressing.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Monitor your condition.

  • Contact your caregiver if you are getting worse or not improving.