Stepping on a nail is a surprising and painful experience. If the nail is particularly sharp and angled upright, it can puncture a hole deep in the sole of your foot. Not only will this make moving around difficult, but it can cause potentially harmful complications. Proper care immediately following the injury is essential to prevent complications and excessive bleeding. Keep reading to learn more about the appropriate at-home care for a nail in foot, the potential dangers, and when you should see a doctor.

what do you do if you step on a nail

What Do You Do If You Step on a Nail

Time is of the essence with this kind of injury, but depending on its severity, you may be able to treat yourself at home. If your wound isn’t particularly deep or large, follow our steps listed below:

Wash your hands

It may be tempting to jump right in and start touching the wound, but you need to wash your hands first. Odds are that you aren’t indoors if you’ve stepped on a nail, which means your hands are probably covered in germs. The last thing you want is to cause an infection while trying to care for the injury, so take the time to complete this first step. And if soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer will do in a pinch!

Stop the bleeding

Not all nail punctures bleed, but if yours does, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth to encourage clotting. Be wary about applying too much pressure though, as this can cause excessive bleeding and pain.

Clean the wound

Nails found lying on the street are likely to be contaminated with bacteria and other germs, especially if it’s a rusty nail or otherwise dirty. To prevent infection and illness, cleaning the wound is essential. Failing to clean it properly may result in you needing to receive a tetanus shot.

If the foreign object is still in your foot, it’s probably best to leave it in and go to the ER. Should you prefer to pull it out, we recommend that you only do so if the nail seems short and hasn’t gone more than half an inch into your foot.

Apply Antibiotic Ointment

After you’ve insured that the wound is clean, keep it that way by applying an antibiotic ointment. This will protect the puncture wound and prevent infection throughout the day. Some great and affordable options are Nesporin, Terrasil, and Betadine.

Cover the wound

Because it’s difficult to avoid putting pressure on your feet, these wounds tend to take awhile to heal. Keep debris out of the wound with a protective bandage. Be sure to change the bandage at least once a day, preferrablyafter showering!

Monitor the wound

Even if you do everything right, the wound may still become infected. Pay close attention to the surroundingarea in the days and weeks following the injury to make sure you aren’t seeing any signs of infection.

foot swell after stepping on nail

Is It Normal for Your Foot to Swell After Stepping on a Nail?

After this sort of injury, you are likely to experience some swelling. But there does come a point when swelling may indicate something more serious. Look for signs of infection if the swelling in your foot becomes increasingly worse or does not go away for several days.

puncture wound infected

How Do You Know if a Puncture Wound is Infected?

Any time the skin is broken there is a risk of infection. And because nail puncture wounds are usually deep, you want to be careful. Potential complications include bone infection, tetanus, and gangrene. Here are some signs that a wound has become infected:

  • Expanding redness around the wound
  • Cloudy pus or drainage
  • Increased tenderness and swelling
  • Excessive pain
  • Fever
  • Red streaking from the wound

When to See a Doctor

If the wound is very deep or you experience any symptoms indicating that the injury is infected, seek medical care. Finding the nail in question can also be a good indicator for whether or not you need professional care; if it’s a dirty or rusty nail, infection is far more likely. People with diabetes should also get any kind of foot injury treated immediately, as they can turn into severe ulcers and may even require amputation.

Visit Village Emergency Centers

At Village Emergency Centers, we believe in offering quality care and medical advice. If you have a nail in foot or any other emergency, we are ready and able to help you. Contact us today or visit our website to make an appointment. We offer affordable care with transparent billing and accept most insurances.