It’s easy to overlook simple medical tasks like how to wrap a finger wound. However, even the smallest wound can morph into a serious illness if you treat it improperly.
This article will explain how to wrap and care for a finger wound. In the sections below, you'll learn several steps you should take before and after you wrap an injury to your finger.
You will be able to apply the tips and tricks you learn in this article to injuries all over the body.
How to Treat a Finger Wound
Wrapping a wound is the final step in the treatment process. So, it's important to talk about the steps you should take before you wrap the wound.
Steps to perform before wrapping a finger wound:
Decide if the wound needs stitches
Consider getting a tetanus shot
Let's look at these steps in more depth.
How to Stop the Bleeding to a Hand or Finger
Thankfully, bleeds to the finger and hand are usually low-pressure injuries. What does this mean?
The arteries in the finger are much smaller than those in, say, a thigh. So, bleeds require less pressure to control. It's unlikely to need a tourniquet for a finger wound - even a finger amputation is unlikely to require a tourniquet.
However, you should still take a wound to the finger seriously. Especially if the patient is on any blood thinner or if they're already struggling with anemia. Every red blood cell matters!
Here are steps to holding pressure on a finger wound:
Hold pressure right away. You don't necessarily need gauze or anything; just use your hand, hold pressure on the bleeding.
Hold more pressure than you think. Place firm pressure with rigid fingers. More pressure than you might imagine!
Hold for at least five minutes. Hold pressure without checking on the bleeding! After five minutes, consider checking to see if you need to reposition the pressure.
After the bleeding has subsided, you'll need to decide if you should go to the urgent care or ER (for serious bleeds) to get stitches. In the next section, we'll talk about some criteria for stitches.
Also, check out this article on common mistakes made during bleeding control.
How to Decide if a Finger Wound Needs Stitches
Trying to decide if "it needs stitches" is one of the questions of the century. Most resources will tell you “Better to be safe than sorry" - this is smart.
However, let's try to shed some light on the theory behind placing stitches for a minor (non-life threatening) wound.
You might need stitches if the wound is especially large, gaping, on the face, and at low risk for infection. The multitude of variables makes it difficult to define clear qualifications for stitches.
For example, a doctor might use steri-strips on a coherent, mature adult. However, if they think the patient will be non-compliant (might attempt to scrape off the bandage), they may opt for the more secure stitches.
Another example: You might just bandage a 1 cm cut to the arm; however, if that same cut was to the face, a physician might choose to stitch it, as this will reduce the amount of scar tissue.
So you see, it's not as easy to just say "this-plus-that equals stitches." Even physicians might wrestle with the pros and cons of stitches.
How to know if a cut needs stitches:
The cut is wide and gaping
The edges of the cut are jagged
The cut is on your face
The wound is deep
A physician's discretion
Hopefully, some of these points shed some light on the theory behind stitches. With that said, the adage is still true: better safe than sorry.
How to Clean a Finger Wound
Once the bleeding has stopped, you should inspect the wound for any foreign material or contamination.
Then, you'll need to clean the wound.
Here are several things to consider for wound cleaning and care:
Clean water. You'll remember this: the solution to pollution is dilution. Clean, sterile water is one of the best ways to clean a wound. If you have a small cut, washing it with clean water will remove contaminants.
A little bit of soap. Adding a touch of soap to your water will help cleanse the wound.
Hydrogen peroxide (Avoid it). We all remember mom grabbing the bottle of hydrogen peroxide. This stuff stings! Many professionals advise not to use hydrogen peroxide anymore, citing that it can damage your own tissue.
Triple antibiotic ointment. Another common one in the mom cabinet. Most still advocate using triple antibiotic ointment, as it helps prevent infection from entering the wound.
See a physician for complicated, larger cuts. If your cut was heavily contaminated with dirt, someone else's body fluids, or chemicals, then it's always best to see a physician.
Now that you have your bleeding controlled and the wound clean, let's talk about how to wrap a wound.
7 Steps to Wrap a Finger Wound
Now, it's time to wrap a wound. Whenever you're wrapping a wound, imagine you're creating a big band-aid.
What does this mean?
A common band-aid has two parts: first, the little white rectangle covers the wound. Second, there's the elastic, adhesive bandage.
The common band-aid is a good model because almost every type of wound bandaging, regardless of the size, follows the same design: sterile gauze applied directly to the wound and a non-sterile bandage portion that protects the gauze and the wound.
Here are the steps to wrap a finger wound:
Safety. If you're wrapping the wound for someone else, you should try to wear gloves while wrapping the wound. The gloves will help you avoid introducing any infection to the wound; however, you also want to protect yourself from contact with any foreign body fluids.
Place sterile gauze. Before you wrap the wound, place a sterile gauze pad directly on the wound. Hold this in place with your hand while preparing to wrap the wound.
Wrap over the gauze. Though the bandage doesn't directly touch the wound, it should still be as clean as possible. If you can, using something like a self-adhering bandage is ideal. However, you could also use part of a triangular bandage to wrap the finger.
Wrap comfortably for a non-bleeding wound. If you've controlled the bleeding, wrap the bandage just tight enough to hold the gauze in place. If you're not using self-adhering bandages, you can use medical tape to secure the ends of the bandage.
Wrap tight for a pressure dressing. If you're in an emergency and need to control the bleeding fast, wrap the wound tighter, creating a pressure dressing to slow the bleeding.
(Which direction to wrap). For wrapping most wounds, this isn't a huge deal. I'd recommend wrapping around the gauze first and then wrapping it in each direction to protect the gauze from invaders. Note: if you're applying a pressure dressing to stop the bleeding, make sure you wrap tight directly over the bleeding sight.
Monitor for infection. Even a small wound can create big problems. Redness, pain, swelling can all indicate infection. This is so important, we talk more about it below.
Now that you know how to wrap a finger wound, let's discuss infections after wrapping a finger wound.
When Should I see the Doctor for an Infected Finger Wound?
While we don't typically think small cuts are dangerous, all cuts to the body present the risk of infection. And infections are dangerous! All wounds, even small wounds, should be handled with care.
How to know if a cut is infected:
The pain gets worse. If the pain gets worse or the wound becomes painful to touch, it's a good sign you need to see the doctor.
The redness and swelling are spreading. If the redness and swelling are spreading, it's a fair chance you have an infection.
The wound is hot to the touch. If the wound feels warm to the touch, you may have an infection.
You can see or smell pus. Pus is a sign of infection - see a doctor right away.
You have a fever. If you have a fever, your system is raising body temperature to fight the infection.
It's not healing. Infected wounds don't heal; instead, they fester.
The wound was heavily contaminated. If you know the wound was heavily contaminated initially (dirt, mud, fecal matter, or body fluids), then you should see a doctor right away.
If you try to "tough it out," the infection could lead to systemic bodily infection, also known as sepsis. Sepsis is deadly!
Key Takeaway on Wrapping a Finger Wound
Though we spend a lot of time worrying about big emergencies, we should never ignore the small wounds. As we just said, if a small wound is left untreated, it can become infected, leading to a loss of life or limb!
Spend some time getting hands-on training in how to wrap a finger wound. There's nothing like hands-on medical experience. In addition to training, you should always have a well-stocked family medical kit.
Note: this article does not replace researched medical advice or doctors' orders. Medicine is a complex field, and the techniques described in this article may or may not apply to all injuries. Always consult professional medical advice!