Finger injuries

A finger injury can be caused if your hand is hit, squashed or cut. Other causes of injury can be overuse syndromes, such as strain, sprain and repetitive motion.

Some finger injuries are serious and will need immediate medical attention at the emergency department. Don’t attempt to drive yourself to hospital if you have a serious hand or finger injury.

Serious injuries – go straight to hospital

Go to the emergency department immediately if you or a family member has:

  • a fully or partly amputated (cut off) finger
  • finger bone poking through the skin
  • crushed fingers
  • something stuck deeply into a finger.

If high-pressure air or grease has accidentally been injected under the skin of your finger, this can be a very serious injury and needs hospital attention. (This can happen with painting or lubricant applications.)

Before going to hospital, here are some basic steps to follow.

  • Don’t remove any objects stuck into the finger. If there’s an object in a bleeding wound, apply pressure around the area – not directly over it.
  • Elevate and support the injured hand in a comfortable position to reduce pain and prevent further injury. Keep as still as possible.
  • If the injury is bleeding, cover it with a clean cloth and apply firm pressure. If bleeding continues through the cloth, add more material. Do not remove the first cloth. Continue to apply pressure.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything.

If you can, it’s helpful to take any current prescription or other medication with you to hospital. You may need a tetanus injection if you haven’t had one in the last 10 years.

If a finger is amputated (cut off)

If possible, find the amputated finger and skin, cover it with clean gauze and place in an airtight container such as a plastic bag.

Put the container inside a chilly bin or another container with ice.

  • Do not put the finger in direct contact with ice.
  • Don’t use dry ice.
  • If you have no ice use very cold water – but do not put the finger in direct contact with water.

When to see your doctor

See your doctor for less urgent injuries or other finger problems, such as:

  • any new severe pain in your finger, or if it’s pale, discoloured or cool compared to the other fingers
  • if you can’t remove rings after using soap, lotion, oil, petroleum jelly or other lubricants and this is causing pain, discolouration or severe swelling
  • any obvious new deformity, like an odd angle or obvious misalignment in your finger
  • something stuck in your finger that can’t be removed
  • signs of infection, like redness, swelling or a hot feeling in your finger
  • if a fingernail is completely torn off or hanging
  • bleeding under your fingernail, if this is very painful.

Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.

Back to top