Dealing with herpetic whitlow

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Herpetic whitlow is an infection of the fingertip that causes severe pain. It usually affects one or several fingers and usually affects the terminal phalanx. This condition is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The condition causes severe pain and blisters.

Symptoms of herpetic whitlow

  • Redness and swollen
  • Development of rashes with vesicles filled with fluid around the affected region. The vesicles can burst and drains whitish, transparent or blood-streaked fluid
  • The vesicles can merge and becomes black-brown in color
  • Inflammation of the finger
  • Fever
    Dealing with herpetic whitlow
    Development of rashes with vesicles filled with fluid around the affected region.
  • Tenderness
  • Development of lesions
  • Swelling of lymph nodes
  • Ulceration or break in the skin


  • Avoid picking on the vesicles to prevent the area from becoming susceptible to bacterial infection.
  • Fill a container deep enough for the affected area with warm water and add a cup of Epsom salt. Mix well until salt is totally dissolved and soak the area for at least 15 minutes. Repeat if there is still pain. Pat dry the area and wrap using a dry bandage to prevent the spread of herpetic whitlow. Epsom salt lessens the swelling of the area.
  • If there are open blisters or drained vesicle, soak the area in warm water mixed with antibacterial soap to protect the area against bacterial infections.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected area. The cold will numb the nerves that surround the area and lessen the pain. It will increase the flow of blood in the area and lessen the inflammation, swelling and pain. Avoid applying the ice pack directly on the skin to prevent further damage and worsen the condition.
  • Clean the affected area using an antiseptic. Apply a magnesium sulphate paste and cover the area using cotton or lint wool and secure it with a bandage. Change bandages every day. Magnesium sulphate lessens the pain and swelling caused by herpetic whitlow.
  • Avoid being stressed to prevent the development of herpetic whitlow. Minimize stress and boost the immune system by eating healthy meals, maintain good sleeping habits and regular exercise for proper flow of blood in the area.


  • Herpetic whitlow can also affect the toe.
  • Use a clean towel and change linens regularly especially when there are oral or genital outbreaks of herpes.
  • Avoid placing hands in the mouth such as biting the fingernails or sucking the finger or thumb.
  • Avoid touching the affected person with HSV lesions especially in the mouth and genitals.
  • During an outbreak of the HSV virus, cover any break in the skin with a bandage to prevent spreading of the virus from the broken skin.
  • Reduce the levels of stress to prevent a dormant HSV virus from becoming activated.

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