How do I Treat an Infected Nail?

One of the most common hand injuries is an infected fingernail. Fingernail infections often occur on the edge of nail and are incredibly painful, but the majority of the time are not serious and do not require medical intervention by a doctor.

Fingernail infections can be caused in a number of ways. Ingrown nails or nail biting can cause the skin to break and allow bacteria to enter the area, often causing a fingernail infection. Getting your nails done at the salon and having your cuticles pushed down may also lead to a fingernail infection.

Fingernail infections are easy to spot so if you suspect that you have a fingernail infection, watch for these signs and symptoms:

  • Swelling around the fingernail
  • Redness and a tender feeling when pressed down on
  • Blisters or pus build-up (in worse cases)

Luckily, there are at home methods that you can use to treat fingernail infections without having to see the doctor. At home remedies include:

Antiseptic soaks

Using antibacterial and warm soap, soak the affected fingernail in a bowl 3 times a day for up to 20 minutes. If the infection has not cleared within four or five days, visit your doctor.


Most fingernail infections do not pus or will go away before it gets to that stage. Should your fingernail infection progress to a point where pus is present, give it a gentle squeeze to release the built-up pus. Pus will normally drain away on its own when you use the soaking method, but others are a bit more stubborn. Pricking the area with a sterile pin to help release the pus may be necessary.


Over the counter remedies such as Polysporin have worked wonders for many different infections, and fingernail infections are no exception. Apply the cream after using the soaking method for best absorption and efficacy. Do this three times a day after each soaking and apply a band-aid to ensure the cream absorbs into the skin and does not run off on anything else. If the infection persists after 5 days, call your doctor