How to Care for a Cut Finger

A cut finger is one of those annoying injuries that rank right up there with a hangnail and chapped lips. Because we’re constantly in a state of using our hands, there’s always a higher risk of this type of wound being re-injured before it fully heals. In addition to this, our hands are also highly exposed to all sorts of bacteria and fungi. What it boils down to is this: if you don’t take care of a cut finger in the proper fashion, you could risk an infection—and no one wants that!

Stop, Drop, and Cleanse

As with any injury, the initial reaction should be to stop using your hand and assess the damage. Most of the time a cut finger looks worse than it is; which is typically the result of having good blood circulation in this part of the body. A significant amount of blood seeping from a cut doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to whisk yourself away to the emergency room…unless you want to blow $200 on a largely unnecessary medical bill. Run yourself to the nearest clean water tap and let the water run until it’s warm to the touch. Hold your finger under the stream of running water and pay attention to how the skin moves when the water makes contact. If there is a deep or wide separation of the skin then this is usually a sign that the cut is moderately deep.

Gently lather antibacterial soap and wash your hands under the warm water. It’s going to burn but at least you can rest assured knowing that you are whisking away any potentially infectious organisms from your wound. Don’t use a hand towel to dry the skin as this will only reintroduce an indeterminate amount of bacteria to the wound. Gently dab the area with a paper towel or sterile napkins/gauze if you have any.

Prevent Infection

At this point you’ve done a lot to rid the area of immediate bacterial threat but you can never be too careful when dealing with a cut finger. As your hands are likely to come into contact with germs before you get the bandage on, it’s always good to apply some antiseptic ointment like Neosporin, but you can also dribble a bit of hydrogen peroxide or rub a drop or tea tree oil on the area—both of which will work as an antibacterial and antifungal agent until you can get the bandage prepared.

Applying a Bandage

Now it’s time to dust off the old first aid kit or rummage through the medicine cabinet for some band aids. If your cut is relatively large or if it seems to be bleeding more than you think a flimsy band aid can hold, then you’ll need to apply some gauze to the cut. Double the gauze over a few times to create multiple layers and cut it into a square large enough to overlap the wound by at least half an inch on all sides. You’ll also need to grab some bandage tape to secure it to your skin. Do not use regular “Scotch” tape, as this can lead to tissue damage by cutting off oxygen to the skin.

Alternatively you can just wrap the gauze around your finger several times and secure it using the “twist and tuck” method, that is, twisting and tucking the loose end under the many layers of gauze.

When to Go to the Hospital

A very deep cut will warrant a trip to the hospital for proper treatment. If you see fatty tissue (yellow-ish colored glossy tissue) or bone then you’re definitely dealing with a deep cut. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have stitches, though. After the wound has been thoroughly cleaned you may find the doctor applying a clear liquid to the cut with something akin to a nail polish brush. This is substance is basically the medical version of super glue and will keep the underlying tissues sealed and protected until the skin cells naturally knit back together. On the other hand, a very long cut or one that is located in a spot that is in a state of nearly-constant use may require stitches. Stitches will also be the elected form of treatment if you don’t make it to the hospital within about two hours after the initial injury takes place, as by this point the tissues will already have significant cellular damage, decay, and likely exposure to infectious organisms.

Signs of an Infection

As with any open wound, you’re going to want to keep an eye on your finger over the next few days to make sure that it doesn’t show any signs of infection. A well-healing wound should look a little better every day and the pain should diminish over time. The initial signs of infection are basically the same as inflammation, but usually on a stronger scale. The wounded skin will appear very red, it will be warmer than the surrounding skin, and the area will also become more painful. An infection may also be spotted by the presence of pus leaking from the wound. Dark red streaks extending from the area are a sure sign that infection is present. If you suspect that you’ve got an infected finger then you should go to the doctor as soon as possible for treatment.

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