Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Toe Injury

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Injuries to toes

Types of Toe Injuries

  • Cuts, Scrapes and Bruises. These are the most common injuries.
  • Jammed Toe. The end of a straightened toe receives a blow. This is usually from stubbing the toe on an object. The energy is absorbed by the joint surface and the injury occurs there. This is called traumatic arthritis.
  • Crushed or Smashed Toe. This is usually from something heavy falling on the toe. Sometimes, the nail can be damaged. Fractures are unusual, but are at risk for a bone infection osteomyelitis.
  • Toenail Injury. If the nailbed is cut, it may need sutures to prevent a permanently deformed nail. This is less important for toenails.
  • Subungual Hematoma Blood Clot under the Nail. Most often caused by a crush injury. It can be from a heavy object falling on the nailbed. Many are only mildly painful. Some are severely painful and throbbing. These need the pressure under the nail released. This can relieve the pain and prevent loss of the nail.
  • Dislocations. The toe has been pushed out of its joint.
  • Fractures. Toe has a broken bone.

Pain Scale

  • Mild: Your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.

When to Call for Toe Injury

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Large swelling is present
  • Blood under a nail is causing more than mild pain
  • Nail is torn
  • Base of nail has popped out from under the skin fold
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Toe injury that causes bad limp
  • Severe pain and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Age less than 1 year old
  • Age less than 2 years and toe tourniquet suspected. Hair wrapped around toe, groove, swollen red or bluish toe
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in over 5 years
  • Clean cut and no tetanus shot in over 10 years
  • Pain not better after 3 days
  • Not using the toe normally after 2 weeks
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor toe injury

Estimated Urgent Care Wait Times

These are estimated wait times for each Urgent Care clinic. Wait times are typically longest during the first hour we are open and may not be reflected immediately in the online wait time. Wait times may also vary depending on the severity of the illnesses we are treating. If your child’s illness or injury is life-threating, call 911.

Care Advice for Minor Toe Injuries

  1. What You Should Know About Toe Injuries:
    • There are many ways that children can hurt their toes.
    • There are also many types of toe injuries.
    • You can treat minor toe injuries at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product such as Tylenol.
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product such as Advil.
    • Use as needed.
  3. Bruised/Swollen Toe:
    • Soak in cold water for 20 minutes.
    • Repeat as needed.
  4. Small Cuts or Scratches:
    • For any bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound. Use a gauze pad or clean cloth. Press for 10 minutes.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • For any dirt in the wound, scrub gently.
    • For any cuts, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed.
    • Cover it with a bandage such as Band-Aid. Change daily.
  5. Jammed Toe:
    • Caution: Be certain range of motion is normal. Your child should be able to bend and straighten each toe. If movement is limited, your doctor must check for a broken bone.
    • Soak the foot in cold water for 20 minutes.
    • If the pain is more than mild, "buddy-tape" it to the next toe.
  6. Smashed or Crushed Toe:
    • Wash the toe with soap and water for 5 minutes.
    • Trim any small pieces of torn skin with a fine scissors. Clean them first with rubbing alcohol.
    • For any cuts, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed.
    • Cover it with a bandage such as Band-Aid. Change daily.
  7. Torn Nail from catching it on something:
    • For a cracked nail without rough edges, leave it alone.
    • For a large flap of nail that's almost torn through, cut it off. Use a pair of scissors that have been cleaned. Cut along the line of the tear. Reason: Pieces of nail taped in place will catch on objects.
    • Soak the toe for 20 minutes in cold water for pain relief.
    • Use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed. Then cover with a bandage such as Band-Aid. Change daily.
    • After about 7 days, the nailbed should be covered by new skin. It should no longer hurt. A new nail will grow in over 6 to 8 weeks.
  8. Shoes:
    • If normal shoes cause too much pain, wear open-toe sandals.
    • Use sandals with a firm sole until the injury heals.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain not better after 3 days
    • Toe not normal after 2 weeks
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Last Reviewed: 10/20/2014

Last Revised: 10/20/2014

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.