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Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

Treatment

Except for infections related to herpes, felons are treated with a minor surgery to allow drainage. Typically, your doctor will make the whole finger numb by injecting an anesthetic once into each side of your finger, just beyond the knuckle of the hand. Then he or she will make one or more small cuts in the tip of your finger to allow the pus to drain out. A narrow gauze strip may be left in the wound to hold it open for continued drainage. The gauze may need to be replaced every day or two as it absorbs bacteria and debris from inside the wound.

A doctor usually will prescribe antibiotics that work against "staph" bacteria infections. Antibiotics may be changed if the infection does not clear up promptly or if testing of the pus indicates that the infection is caused by an unusual organism or one that is resistant to the usual antibiotics. For severe cases, a more extensive operation may be necessary including making a small hole in the nail to allow additional drainage.

If the infection is due to herpes, drainage is not performed because it may delay healing or increase the risk of bacterial infection. Herpes infections in the finger tend to clear up on their own, although antiviral medication (such as Zovirax) often is prescribed as well.

If you have this or any skin or wound infection, make sure you are up-to-date with your tetanus vaccinations.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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