Finger or Toe Bruise

A bruise (contusion) happens when small blood vessels break open and leak blood into the nearby area. A finger or toe bruise can result from a bump, hit, or fall. Symptoms of a bruise often include changes in skin color (bruising), swelling, and pain. It may take several hours for a deep bruise to show up. If the injury is severe, you may need an X-ray to check for broken bones.

The finger or toe may be taped or wrapped to protect it and help reduce swelling. For a severely bruised toe, your or your child may need crutches to get around for a few days.

Swelling should decrease in a few days. Bruising and pain may take several weeks to go away. You can gradually go back to normal activities when the swelling has gone down and you start to feel better. 

Home care

Follow these guidelines for care at home:

  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for pain and inflammation. Follow all instructions on how to take these medicines.

  • Rest the affected leg or arm. You may need to restrict activities for a few days.

  • Elevate the affected hand or foot to help ease swelling.

    • For children 1 year and older: When sitting or lying down, elevate the affected hand or foot above the level of the heart as often as possible. For a child older than 1 year, prop the child's hand or foot on pillows.

    • For babies younger than 12 months: A baby who is awake and observed can be placed on their side with the affected arm or foot elevated. If your baby falls asleep, move them to a firm, flat surface. Never use pillows for sleep or put your baby to sleep on their stomach or side. Babies younger than 12 months should sleep on a flat surface on their back. Don't use car seats, strollers, swings, baby carriers, or baby slings for sleep. If your baby falls asleep in one of these, move them to a flat, firm surface as soon as you can.

  • Use cold to help reduce swelling and pain. For babies and toddlers, wet a clean cloth with cold water, then wring it out. For older children and adults, use a cold pack or a plastic bag of ice cubes wrapped in a thin, dry cloth.  Apply the cold source to the bruised area for up to 20 minutes. Repeat this several times a day while your child is awake. Continue for 1 or 2 days or as instructed.

  • When the swelling has gone away, start using warm compresses. This is a clean cloth that’s damp with warm water. Apply this to the area for 10 minutes, several times a day.

  • If you were given tape or a wrap, follow instructions for how to use it and when to remove it.

  • Follow any other instructions you were given.

  • Keep in mind that bruising may take several weeks to go away.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Special note to parents

Healthcare providers are trained to see injuries such as this in young children as a sign of possible abuse. You may be asked questions about how your child was injured. Healthcare providers are required by law to ask you these questions. This is done to protect your child. Please try to be patient.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away for any of these:

  • Bruising that gets worse

  • Pain or swelling that doesn't get better or that gets worse

  • Numbness or tingling of the affected foot or hand

  • The affected finger or hand or affected toe or foot feels cold or looks very pale

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