Hangnails are a common annoyance that almost everyone has experienced at some point in their life. They occur when a piece of skin on the side of your nail splits or tears, which can be painful and unsightly. Sometimes these tears can become infected, which can be a cause for concern. If you suspect that your hangnail is infected, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading. Here’s how to treat an infected hangnail on your finger.
What Causes an Infected Hangnail?
An infected hangnail is caused when bacteria or fungi enter the skin through the tear or cut on the side of the nail. This can happen when you are biting your nails, picking at the skin around your nails, or even just when your skin is dry and cracked. Once the infection sets in, it can be difficult to get rid of and can cause pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness around the nail.
Signs of an Infected Hangnail
Redness, Swelling, and Warmth
If your hangnail is infected, you may notice redness, swelling, and warmth around the affected nail. This is a sign that your body is trying to fight off the infection. You may also notice that the skin around the nail feels tender to the touch.
Pus or Drainage
If your hangnail is really infected, you may start to notice pus or other drainage coming from the area around the nail. This is a sign that the infection is severe and needs to be treated by a doctor.
Blood or Discoloration
If the hangnail is infected, it may also cause bleeding, which can lead to discoloration around the nail. This could also be a sign that the infection is deep and needs medical attention.
If you experience pain around the affected nail, it could be a sign of an infected hangnail. The pain may be constant or only occur when pressure is put on the nail.
How to Treat an Infected Hangnail on Your Finger
Soak Your Finger
Soak your finger in warm water with Epsom salt for about 10 to 15 minutes, three times a day. This can help to soften the nail and relieve pain and discomfort.
Clean the Affected Area
Clean the affected area with a gentle soap and water. Then, apply an antiseptic ointment such as Neosporin or Bactroban to the affected area to help fight off the infection.
Protect the Hangnail
Use a bandage or finger cot to protect the hangnail from further injury or infection. This will also keep the antiseptic ointment in place and help it to work more effectively.
Avoid Aggravating the Hangnail
Avoid biting your nails or picking at the infected area. This could cause the infection to spread or worsen the existing infection. You should also avoid wearing tight-fitting gloves or exposing your hands to chemicals or other irritants.
Take Pain Medication
If you are experiencing pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. This will help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation around the affected area.
When to See a Doctor
The Infection Is Not Improving
If the infection is not improving after a few days of at-home treatment, it’s important to see a doctor. They may prescribe an antibiotic or other medication to treat the infection.
The Infection Is Spreading
If the infection is spreading to other areas of the finger or hand, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. This could indicate a more severe infection that requires prompt treatment.
You Have Diabetes or Other Medical Conditions
If you have diabetes or any other medical conditions that affect your immune system, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. These conditions can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infections, so prompt treatment is essential.
An infected hangnail can be an annoying and painful condition that needs to be treated properly to prevent further complications. By taking prompt action, it is possible to prevent the infection from spreading and get back to normal quickly. Remember to soak your finger, clean the affected area, protect the hangnail, avoid aggravating the hangnail, and take pain medication to relieve discomfort. If the infection is particularly severe, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible to ensure that it is properly treated.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I prevent hangnails?
- What are some natural remedies for treating infected hangnails?
- Can a hangnail be a sign of something more serious?
- How long does an infected hangnail take to heal?
You can prevent hangnails by moisturizing your hands regularly and avoiding biting your nails or picking at the skin around your nails.
You can use natural remedies such as tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, or aloe vera to help treat an infected hangnail. However, if the infection is severe, it’s important to see a doctor for proper treatment.
In some cases, a hangnail can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as psoriasis or thyroid disease. If you are experiencing frequent hangnails, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying conditions.
The healing time for an infected hangnail can vary depending on the severity of the infection. In some cases, it may take a few days to a week for the infection to clear up completely.
1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Hangnails: Treatment and Prevention. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nail-injuries/symptoms-causes/syc-20353225
2. Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Torn or Ingrown Nail. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15377-torn-or-ingrown-nail