If your child’s toe begins to look red and angry, an ingrown toenail may be the problem. An ingrown toenail occurs when the nail begins to grow into the surrounding skin instead of straight outward causing pain and discomfort. If left untreated, the nail may break the skin and allow bacteria to enter leading to infection.
An ingrown can occur on any toe, but most commonly affects the big toe. The most common causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Improper trimming of nails
- Poorly fitted shoes
- Repeated trauma to the nail
- Tearing or picking at nails
Certain nail or toe shapes may also be prone to developing ingrown toenails.
Signs and Symptoms
Check your child’s feet regularly as they may hide this condition, even if they are in significant pain. You may notice the skin around the nail appears red, swollen, or feels warm to the touch. Your child’s toe may also be tender when rubbed or squeezed by a sock or shoe.
In some cases, the nail may break the skin and cause an infection. Signs of infection may include a fluid-filled blister, discharge around the edge of the nail, a foul odor, and even fever. If you notice these signs, seek medical attention as the infection may spread through the toe and into the bone leading to further complications.
Though most ingrown nails do not go away on their own, some can be treated with home care. We recommend the following options for treating early signs of an ingrown toenail:
- Soak your child’s foot twice a day in warm water and a mild soap for 20 minutes. While soaking, gently massage the swollen skin outwards from the nail. Afterward, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the area for at least a week, even if signs improve.
- Use tape to pull the skin away from the nail. This may help the nail to grow outward and alleviate pressure.
- Use unwaxed, unflavored dental floss to gently separate the skin from the toe and try to edge a small cotton ball between the nail and skin to prevent the nail from cutting into the skin. Repeat daily as needed.
When To See a Podiatrist
If you notice infection, or if there is no sign of improvement after several days, please contact your podiatrist for an appointment. Do not attempt to dig out the nail or cut at it, as you may worsen the condition or increase the risk of infection.
In severe cases or instances where ingrown toenails are a repeated occurrence, surgery may be necessary to remove part of the nail. During this procedure, the toe is first numbed with a local anesthetic and then the nail is cut towards the cuticle to remove the problem edge. The nail is then dressed with a bandage and antibiotic cream may be prescribed in case of infection.
Following the procedure, open-toed or loose-fitting shoes should be worn, so the toe has adequate room to heal. Your child can resume regular activity after a few days, if allowed by the podiatrist, but should avoid strenuous activities for two weeks following treatment. It is important to follow through with treatment and aftercare even if symptoms are improved. If a partial nail is removed, the nail might grow back within a few months. If the complete nail is removed, regrowth could take up to a year. The nail will be thinner than before and may not look the same as it did before it became ingrown.
The most common causes of ingrown toenails are narrow shoes and improper cutting. Use these precautions to lower your child’s risk of developing an ingrown toenail:
- Ensure your child’s shoes fit properly, the widest part of the shoe should match the widest part of the foot
- Trim your children’s nails straight across and do not cut them too short. Do not cut off the corners or try to round them out. The best time to cut nails is after a shower or bath while the nails are soft.
For more information on ingrown toenails in children or to schedule an appointment, please contact DM Foot and Ankle today.