Your baby has a smashed finger -- what should you do?

by Laura Sussely-Pope

baby smashed fingerYou came out of the bathroom, smiled at your baby who was sitting there waiting -- none too patiently. After shutting off the light, you close the door.

There's a sharp intake of breath followed by, "Waaaah!"

Looking down, you see she poked her pointer finger into the crack by the hinge and you've accidentally crushed her finger. Oh the guilt!

Usually these injuries won't require a trip to ER or a call to your doctor.

In fact, the parent or sibling who slammed the door may need more reassurance than the injured party!

All about bruised and smashed fingers

Whether you shut it in a car door, your wee explorer slammed it into a cupboard or a sibling ran over that tiny finger with a skate board, most babies and toddlers end up with a smashed finger at some point.

The accident causes bruising and swelling of the soft tissues or the bone. Some smashes might be accompanied by minor cuts and blood blisters but most can be treated at home.

Occasionally, the injury requires medical attention. When do you need a doctor to see your baby's finger?

When to call the doctor

If you see any of these signs of a more serious injury, call your doctor:

✔ Your child has a deep wound
✔ The wound goes through the nail bed
✔ The wound has dirt or grime that you can't remove
✔ Bleeding doesn't stop after 10 minutes of pressure
✔ The finger can't be straightened or bent
✔ The hand or fingers seem to be bent out of shape
✔ Your child is in extreme pain

Treating an injured finger

Smashed and injured fingers happen and so does the guilt associated with the act. It usually doesn't matter where or how it occurred, but the results certainly can look scary. How do you treat the finger?

If there's a wound:

✔ Wash it thoroughly with soap and water
✔ Apply pressure with a sterile piece of gauze or a clean cloth to stop any bleeding
✔ Use fine cuticle scissors that you have sterilized with rubbing alcohol to trim off dangling bits of skin
✔ Apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage

To reduce swelling and pain:

✔ Apply ice or soak the finger in cold water for 10 to 20 minutes
✔ Give ibuprofen if your baby is older than 6 months or acetaminophen to help with pain
✔ Watch your child and call your doctor if there is:
-- Significant pain: Bleeding can build up under the nail bed. If you baby's pain increases, call your doctor. A small hole can be made in the nail to relieve the pressure.
--Lack of motion: If after several days, your little one still won't use the finger, it might be fractured. Your doctor will x-ray and splint if needed.
-- Infection: If the wound shows any indication of infection, call your doctor. It may need cleaned and an antibiotic to heal properly.

If the nail bed is bruised, you might see darkening under the fingernail. The damaged nail may fall off in a few days or weeks. Almost always, a new nail grows in under the old damaged one. It takes a month or two for a baby or toddler; up to four months for an older child.

Has your baby's curiosity or bad timing resulted in a smashed finger. How long did it take to heal? Did it frighten you to death?

Photo courtesty of iStockphoto.