How to manage a broken toenail

A broken toenail can occur if a heavy object was dropped onto the foot or striking the feet on hard surfaces. The toenails are comprised of keratin which is a hard material that protects the soft tissues at the tip against damage.

In some cases, a broken toenail necessitates medical care but oftentimes the damage is simply aesthetic.

Assessment of the injury


The initial step in managing a broken toenail is to assess the injury and determine the seriousness of the damage.

The initial step in managing a broken toenail is to assess the injury and determine the seriousness of the damage. If the damage is severe, medical care is necessary.

Check for any indications of bleeding and utilize a sterile bandage or clean cloth to place pressure. In case the bleeding continues after 10 minutes of applying pressure or if blood is trapped beneath the nail that triggers significant pain, a doctor should be seen right away.

Some complications might also require assessment by a doctor regardless of the amount of bleeding involved. In case there is debris or dirt embedded under the ripped border of the nail that could not be cleaned, a healthcare professional should be seen for removal to lower the risk for infection. As for diabetics, it is important to set an appointment with a doctor after sustaining a foot injury due to the high risk for infection.

First aid for a broken toenail

When providing first aid for a broken toenail, it is vital to lessen the discomfort. Unless the doctor has advised otherwise, provide a dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen every 6 hours to alleviate the pain.

In case the nail is ripped, utilize a pair of scissors to trim away the hanging section of the nail. Dab an antibiotic gel on the broken toenail and cover with a bandage.

In a week, the nail bed is expected to heal sufficiently that there is no more ache or discomfort. Nevertheless, it might take 2-3 months before the nail can grow to fully cover the bed.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a broken toenail is for learning purposes only. Learn to properly manage the injury by taking a standard first aid course with Saskatoon First Aid.


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