How to Treat a Cut on Your Finger

Accidents happen. It's not unusual to cut yourself with a knife in the kitchen or while working on a project around the house.

That's why it's important to know how to use first aid to treat a cut finger and when things are serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.

This article will help you determine if your finger cut is minor or not. It also provides first aid tips you can follow to treat small cuts on your own.

Control the Bleeding

An accidental cut can be minor or severe. The first step with either is to try to stop the bleeding. Doing so will give you a clearer sense of how deep the cut is.

  • Minor cuts and scrapes that are oozing a little blood usually don't require any bleeding control. They typically stop bleeding on their own, but you can apply pressure to help this along.
  • If the bleeding is heavy, bright red, or spurting, then take steps to control it. Your priority should be to apply pressure with clean gauze or a towel and elevate the wound.
  • If the finger is amputated, immediately put pressure on the cut to control bleeding and follow the steps for treating an amputation. Wrap the amputated finger in moist gauze or a moist paper towel and seal it in a plastic bag filled with ice.

Note: If you are not the injured person, try to use protective gloves when treating the cut. Follow universal precautions like washing your hands before touching the wound. This can prevent infection and the spread of contagious diseases.

Seek Medical Attention (Deep Cuts)

If your wound is minor, you can likely skip this step and move on to the others listed below.

If, however, your finger is bleeding heavily and/or the cut is deep or wide, you should get the bleeding as controlled as possible and head straight to an urgent care clinic (or an emergency room, if you cannot access one).

An amputated finger requires immediate medical attention at a hospital. Call 911 if you think you will be delayed in getting there or don't have a ride. Never drive yourself.

When Does a Finger Cut Need Stitches?

If the cut goes through the skin and leaves a large wound, you will probably need stitches. This is particularly true if you can see fat or muscle.  In order to decrease the risk of scars and infection, a healthcare provider should close the cut within a few hours.

Clean the Wound

Cleaning the wound properly is essential to preventing infection.

Healthcare providers will handle this for deep cuts. For minor finger cuts, follow these steps:

  • Rinse the cut under clear running water. 
  • Wash around the wound with soap. Antibacterial soap is not necessary, but try to keep soap out of the wound because it may irritate it. If you can, avoid soap products with heavy perfumes. They may irritate the cut. 
  • If there is any dirt or other debris in the wound, clean a pair of tweezers with alcohol. Use them to gently remove any particles you can see. If you can't get everything out, you might need a healthcare provider to do this.

Do not use hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or any cleaning solution that contains iodine. These products may only irritate the injury.

Use an Antibiotic Ointment

Antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin or Polysporin, is usually not necessary for the majority of minor cuts. It also won't help a wound heal faster.

However, it can help prevent infection and may be particularly useful for those who anticipate not being able to keep their wound from touching lots of dirt and grime throughout the day.

Never squeeze ointment directly onto the cut. You don't want to contaminate the container. Instead, put the ointment on a cotton swab. You can also use another clean, disposable surface like a tongue depressor or a small piece of clean gauze.

Apply a Bandage

Adhesive bandages protect the cut from contamination. They are not necessary for many minor cuts and scrapes unless there's a potential that they can get dirty or irritated.

When applying an adhesive bandage, never touch the pad. Peel off one side of the protective covering and attach the sticky part to the finger. Then, wrap the bandage around the finger and remove the other covering as you go.

Replace the bandage at least once a day or whenever it gets dirty.

If you were seen by a healthcare provider, follow their instructions for cleaning and bandaging your cut.

Watch for Infection

After dressing a minor cut or being treated for a deeper one, watch for infection. Signs of infection include:

  • Increased temperature or pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Oozing

If you notice any of these or anything else that seems abnormal, see your healthcare provider or go to an urgent care clinic as soon as possible.

Do You Need a Tetanus Shot After a Finger Cut?

If the wound is particularly deep and you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years, it's a good idea to get one. See your healthcare provider as soon as possible to get a booster.

Summary

Finger cuts are pretty common. Knowing what to do when you have a cut finger can help prevent infection and excessive bleeding.

The most important first aid steps include stopping the bleeding, cleaning the wound, applying an antibiotic, and putting a bandage on it.

If you have a deep cut, it's important to go to the urgent care center or ER to get help from a healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I have a small cut on my finger. How do I stop the bleeding?

    If it's a minor cut that oozes a small amount of blood, the cut should eventually stop bleeding on its own.

  • What should I do if I have a cut that will not stop bleeding?

    Apply firm pressure directly on the wound itself. Gauze is best for this purpose if you have it, but terrycloth towels or any other fabric will also work. If blood soaks through, add another layer; don't remove the dressing so the blood has a chance to clot. If the cut is deep, head to the hospital immediately.

  • What should I put on a cut?

    Most minor cuts don't need an antibiotic ointment, but applying one could help prevent infection. Ointments such as Neosporin or Polysporin will do the trick.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  8. KidsHealth. Cuts, scratches, and scrapes (for teens).

Additional Reading
  • Fair Health. Emergency Care and Urgent Care. 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. Cuts and Scrapes: First Aid. 2016.