Nail removal

Also known as: Non-surgical nail removal, Surgical nail removal

Sometimes a toenail or fingernail must be removed because of injury or infection. Your nail has been removed. It will take a few weeks for the nail to start to grow back. It will take about 3 months for a fingernail to fully grow back. A toenail will take about 6 months.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for yourself at home:

  • Keep the injured part raised to help with pain and swelling. This is very important during the first 48 hours.

  • Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes every 3 to 6 hours during the first 24 to 48 hours. Keep using ice packs for swelling and pain relief as needed. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin. As the ice melts, be careful not to get any wrap, splint, or cast wet.  

  • You can use over-the-counter medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. Note: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your provider before using these medicines. Don’t use ibuprofen in children under 6 months of age.

  • The nail bed (the tissue under the nail) is moist, soft, and sensitive. Protect the nail bed for the first 7 to 10 days until it dries out and becomes hard. Keep it covered with a dressing or adhesive bandage until that time.

  • Bandages tend to stick to a newly exposed nail bed. They can be hard to remove if left in place more than 24 hours. So change dressings every 24 hours, unless you were told otherwise. If needed, soak the dressing off while holding your finger or toe under warm running water.

  • If you were given antibiotics to treat or prevent infection, take them as directed until they are all gone.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • Pain or swelling gets worse after 24 hours

  • Redness around the nail, or fluid draining from your finger or toe

  • Any red streaking develops

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider