Losing a fingernail is an annoying and frustrating experience that can make accomplishing the simplest tasks super difficult. In addition to the pain of losing one, it’s also not fun to stare at an empty nail bed for months. A number of situations can cause the nail to fall off, like trauma, fungal infections and psoriasis, as well as common accidents. If you’ve lost a nail, you need to care for the exposed nail bed to prevent infection and ensure healthy regrowth.

1. Apply medication or a bacteria-fighting solution to cleanse the exposed nail bed. If you see a doctor about the missing fingernail, they can prescribe an antibiotic ointment that can prevent infection. Hydrogen peroxide or over-the-counter antibiotic creams can also help keep the area clean and free from infection.

2. Wrap the nail bed in a pressure bandage to stem the bleeding that will most likely occur. Bandaging the area will also help keep it clean.

3. Take over-the-counter pain medications, like aspirin or acetaminophen, to minimize discomfort in your finger and hand.

4. Regularly change the bandage and clean the nail bed until it heals. Gently rinsing the nail bed with water and applying infection-preventing cream will help it heal quickly and properly.

5. Keep the nail bed protected with gloves and a bandage until the nail fully regrows. Be aware that the area may continue to be sensitive for a while.

Tips

  • If you lose your nail in an accident, your medical care provider may want to give you a tetanus shot if it has been more than five years since you’ve had one.
  • If your fingernail is damaged, like in a sports injury, but turns black and remains intact instead of falling off, your medical care provider may want to remove it to allow a new nail to grow properly in its place. A tourniquet will be applied to the finger, then a tool will be used to fully separate the nail from the nail bed. You may receive local anesthetic. Your doctor will provide medication and dressings for the injured nail bed.
  • Avoid exposing your nail bed by being careful of your fingernails. Wear your nails trimmed short. Carefully tend to ingrown nails. Wear protective gloves when engaging in potentially dangerous activities, like hammering a nail or playing sports.