Use scissors to remove the damaged part of the fingernail if partly attached, then trim and file any sharp edges, advises WebMD. The nail can also be left in place and wrapped with tape or an adhesive bandage until the nail has grown out enough to protect the finger.
Once a fingernail has detached from the nail bed, it does not reattach, says WebMD. Soak the finger in cold water for 20 minutes after trimming away the damaged portion, then apply antibiotic ointment, and cover it with an adhesive bandage. To prevent infection, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of warm water, and soak the nail two to three times a day for three days. Reapply antibiotic after each soaking, then cover with a fresh adhesive bandage. Remain alert for signs of infection, such as increasing heat, redness, tenderness, swelling or pus.
The degree of damage to the fingernail determines whether or not it needs to be removed, states Sharecare. If there is minimal damage, a small hole placed in the nail relieves pain and swelling. A fingernail that is not fully damaged can be left in place. It eventually grows out and naturally replaces itself. If a doctor determines the nail needs to be removed, he applies local anesthetic to the area prior to the procedure.