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Do You Need Antibiotics For a Finger Infection?

Finger infections are fairly common, especially after an injury to the finger. There are many different types of finger infections, and each type requires different treatment.

Antibiotics are a common treatment for finger infections. Any finger infection can become serious and can even lead to amputation of the finger. Here is a brief rundown of what you need to know about finger infections.

Types of finger infections

Different types of finger infections have different causes and different treatments, so it’s important to identify which type of infection you might have. The most common types of finger infections are:


Paronychia is an infection of the nail and the soft tissue just around it. It is usually caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria, although it can be caused by a fungus.

It usually starts when a person bites off a hangnail, leaving an open wound for bacteria to enter. The resulting infection may then spread to the surrounding tissue.


Cloudy, white-yellow pus, often visible under and around the nail

Redness and swelling next to the fingernail

Pain and tenderness of the fingertip and around the nail


Felon is an infection of the fingertip or the pulpy part of the top of the finger. It is usually caused by a puncture wound, such as a splinter or a bit of glass in your finger, or as a consequence of paronychia. The infection is the result of staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria getting deep into the finger pad. Infection is usually contained to the location of the wound, but this can cause severe swelling and can even cause the tissues to become compressed and die.


Painful, red, swollen, throbbing fingertip


Swollen area, may feel soft and full of fluid

Herpetic Whitlow:

Herpetic whitlow is nlike other finger infections, a virus, rather than a bacteria, causes herpetic whitlow. Herpes type I, responsible for cold sores, and herpes type II, responsible for genital warts, can cause or infect a finger wound. There are often sores on the finger, which are red and sore, but less swollen than with felon.


Red, tender fingertip

Burning or itching

Mild swelling

Open wounds with clear fluid


Swollen glands or lymph nodes


Cellulitis is like paronychia and felon wounds, cellulitis is usually caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. Cellulitis is often the result of an open wound. It needs prompt treatment because the infection can spread from the finger and hand and cause infection in the bloodstream.



Warm to the touch

Swelling and tenderness

Finger motion shouldn’t be painful or difficult

Infectious flexor tenosynovitis:

Infectious flexor tenosynovitis is an infection that is usually caused by a puncture wound and affects the tendon sheaths and other structures deep in the finger or hand.


Tenderness on the palm side of the finger


Pain straightening finger

Finger held in a flexed position

Deep space infection:

Deep space infection is like infectious flexor tenosynovitis, a deep space infection is usually caused by a puncture wound and infects deep tissues between the fingers. Abscesses can form at the base of the thumb, in the palm or in the web spaces between fingers.


Pain and swelling between fingers

Pus under the skin

Redness and warmth to the touch

Finger infection treatment

If you have any of these symptoms and think you have a finger infection, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. The treatment for a finger infection will vary depending on the type and location of the infection, but drainage of any pus is usually needed to help clear the infection.

Apart from herpetic whitlow, which is caused by the herpes virus, oral or topical antibiotics are typically part of the treatment for finger infections. Wound care is crucial for any type of finger infection. Surgery and drainage of the infection is often required, especially with infectious flexor tenosynovitis.

Antibiotics for finger infection

Depending on the type of infection, topical, oral, or intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be required to treat the infection. Herpetic whitlow is not treated with antibiotics, although antiviral drugs may speed up the healing process.

Experiencing symptoms of a finger infection? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician for a thorough assessment of your symptoms and get the right treatment today, including an antibiotics prescription, if necessary.

Read More About Antibiotics For Finger Infection


Medscape. Paronychia Treatment and Managment. Accessed on October 28, 2019 at

WebMD. Finger Infection. Accessed on October 28, 2019 at

E Medicine Health. Finger Infection. Accessed October 28, 2019 at


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