Dislocation, Finger (Infant/Toddler)
Your infant or toddler's finger has become dislocated. This means the ligaments (strong bands of tissue) that holds the bone of a finger joint together have torn. This allows the bones to move apart and out of place. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and bruising. When a finger dislocates, a small fracture of the bone may also occur.
The child's hand is first examined. Then the bones are moved back into place (realigned). After the joint is realigned, the injured finger may be taped to the one next to it. This is called "buddy taping." It helps keep the dislocated bones in place while the finger heals. In some cases, the finger is put into a splint. This protects the finger.
Most finger dislocations heal well with no loss in movement of the finger. But it takes time for the joint to heal. It may take 12 to 18 months before all discomfort and swelling go away and full hand function returns.
The doctor may prescribe medication to relieve pain and swelling. Follow the doctor's instructions for giving this medication to your child. Do you give your child aspirin unless told to by the child's doctor.
Follow the doctor's instructions about your child using the affected hand.
Keep the affected hand elevated to reduce pain and swelling. This is most important during the first 48 hours after injury. As often as possible, have the child sit or lie down and place pillows under the child's arm until the hand is raised above the level of the heart. (For infants, watch that the pillows don't slip and move near a sleeping child's face.)
Apply a cold pack (such as a plastic bag filled with ice or a bag of frozen peas) to the injury to control swelling. Wrap the cold pack in a thin towel. Hold the pack on the injured area for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. Continue this 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days, then as needed. The cold pack can be put directly on a splint.
Make sure your child wears the buddy tape or splint until instructed otherwise.
If the buddy tape gets wet or dirty, gently remove it. Retape the fingers with first aid tape (available in any drugstore).
Care for a splint as you've been instructed. Don't put any powders or lotions inside the splint. Keep your child from sticking objects into the splint. For bathing, put a plastic bag over the hand and splint and seal it at the top with tape.
Don't allow your child to do any activities that could reinjure the finger.
Special note to parents
Health care providers are trained to recognize injuries like this one in young children as a sign of possible abuse. Several health care providers may ask question about how your child was injured. Providers are required by law to ask these questions. This is for the protection of your child. Please try to be patient and not take offense.
Follow up with the child's doctor or our staff as advised. If you are referred to a specialist, make an appointment promptly.
When to seek medical care
Call the child's doctor if the child has:
Fever greater than 100.4°F (38°C)
Signs of infection, such as warmth, redness, or swelling, or foul-smelling drainage from a wound
Increasing pain or swelling (non-verbal infants may indicate pain with crying that can't be soothed)
Finger becomes cold, blue, numb, or tingly