What are the treatments for fingernails that are swollen and infected?

Updated April 17, 2017

Swollen, infected fingernails can be treated with over-the-counter medications or natural remedies. Paronychia is the medical term for a common finger infection. The symptoms include swollen, red finger bed with pus that collects underneath the skin. The area is tender to the touch and can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

Prescription Medicine

In cases of severe infection, a visit to the doctor is necessary. Depending on the type of infection, a physician will prescribe an antiviral or antibacterial medication that is applied topically or taken orally. In some cases the infection may be the result of a fungus, which will require an antifungal medication. An example of a severe infection that requires a doctor's attention is known as "felon," and its symptoms include a swollen finger tip and throbbing pain.

Over-the-Counter Care

A local pharmacy will be stocked with various over-the-counter treatments for minor fingernail infections. For example, ibuprofen will help with pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen will also relieve the pain, but not the inflammation. To prevent an open wound on a fingernail from getting infected in the first place you can use a topical antibiotic.

Treatment at Home

Minor infections are treated at home with water. Soaking the finger in warm water a few times per day will keep the fingernail clean. Adding Epsom salt to the water will help disinfect the area. Keeping the finger elevated as much as possible will help the collected fluid drain and reduce swelling.

Alternative Remedies

Natural home remedies can also be used to relieve the symptoms of minor infections. A slightly warmed concoction of coconut oil, crushed garlic, turmeric and ginger powder can be applied to the finger three times to a day, until the swelling subsides and the fingernail begins to heal. The natural ingredients have antibiotic properties that combat infection. To reduce the swelling, crush a few ice cubes and place them in a cloth that you can hold on the finger.

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About the Author

Tiffany Ross is a writer and actress who has been working in Chicago since 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting and is completing her Master of Science in Oriental medicine. Ross is a world traveler with experience working overseas.