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How to care for a stubbed toe

A stubbed toe is a common injury on the foot in both children and adults usually due to walking barefoot, colliding with hard surfaces or a piece of furniture. Most cases of stubbed toe are not serious. Sometimes, it can result to toe fracture, contusion, ligament strain, dislocation, injury to the tendons and soft tissue injury.

Stubbed toe in children especially if the big toe is involved can cause an open fracture and osteomyelitis. Osteomyelitis can develop if an open fracture was not properly treated.

Symptoms of a stubbed toe

  • A broken or misplaced nail
  • A “bent” or “misaligned” appearance
  • Bleeding
  • Severe swelling and discoloration of the area

If there is difficulty in removing the shoe or sock, the toe and foot could be fractured or sprained which necessitates immediate treatment.

Stubbed toe

f there are spots on the toe where the skin is broken that includes cuts, abrasions, scrapes and breaks in the nail, clean immediately to prevent an infection.

Treatment

  • If there are spots on the toe where the skin is broken that includes cuts, abrasions, scrapes and breaks in the nail, clean immediately to prevent an infection. Wash the toe using soap and warm water. Dry the toe using a paper towel or clean cloth. Apply a thin layer of antibacterial cream on any breaks in the skin and cover the affected toe with a clean bandage. Change bandages every day.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected area for at least 15-20 minutes at a time to lessen the swelling. Wait for 20 minutes before applying again the cold compress.
  • When the swelling is reduced, place a light cushion such as a gel insole for the shoes to lessen the pain when walking. If pain is not reduced after an hour or two, stop physical activities for a few days until the pain totally disappears.
  • Wear a loose, comfortable pair of shoes after the injury to prevent further damage to the affected area and worsen the condition. Wear open-toed shoes such as sandals and flip-flops.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to lessen the pain and inflammation.
  • Immobilize the affected toe with a splint to prevent unnecessary movement and for fast healing of the condition. Secure the stubbed toe to the one next to it using medical tape.
  • Elevate the affected toe above the level of the heart to lessen the swelling. When lying down, raise the affected area on stacks of pillows to elevate it above the level of the heart.

More Information

The details posted on this page on a stubbed toe is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage joint and tendon injuries including a stubbed toe, enroll in a first aid course with one of our training providers.

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