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If you’ve had a toenail injury, you know that this type of trauma can be very painful, but it can also have serious consequences. Therefore, it’s important to properly care for the injured toenail in order to prevent complications such as nail thickening (which is commonly caused by severe trauma to the growth center of the nail, also known as the nail matrix), dystrophy or even permanent nail loss. Here are four easy-to-follow tips on caring for toenail trauma:

  1. Stop the Bleeding
    If there’s an open wound, the first thing you need to do is to stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound using a clean cloth. Sometimes, the bleeding occurs under the nail, and if that’s the case, then it will slowly start to subside.
  2. Keep the Wound Clean
    Open wounds run a risk for infection, it’s vital to carefully clean and disinfect the wound. This is particularly important if the nail is torn. Clean the wound and the surrounding area with lukewarm water and preferably antibacterial soap, then apply a layer of antibiotic ointment before applying a sterilized bandage.
  3. Minimize the Swelling
    Now that you’ve stopped the bleeding and reduced the risk for infection, try to minimize the swelling and the pain by taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and/or by applying ice packs to the affected area every couple of hours. Depending on how severe the toenail trauma is, it may take several days to a week for the swelling to completely subside.
  4. Keep an Eye on the Injury and Look for Signs of Infection
    Follow-up is very important when managing severe toenail trauma, so make sure to change the bandages, re-apply the antibiotic ointment whenever needed and to keep applying ice packs until the swelling is gone. The nail may slowly separate from the nail bed and start to fall off, so it’s extremely important to monitor for signs of infection. If you do see puss or redness or feel intense heat around the wound, then seek medical treatment from your doctor. Depending on the cause of the injury, you may also need to get a tetanus shot.