What to do when your child has an ingrown toenail

Just like the rest of your child, their feet and toenails grow quickly. An ingrown toenail on your baby or child can affect any toe, but the big toe is the most common. If caught early, this can be treated easily, and likely at home.


What are the signs of an ingrown toenail?

Your child ingrown toenail may show redness or swelling where the toenail meets the skin around it. They may limp when putting pressure on the foot, react if you apply pressure to the area, pull on the toe, or suddenly not want to wear shoes.


What caused the ingrown toenail?

A child’s ingrown toenail could be the result of wearing shoes that are too tight. It can also occur with toenails that are naturally more curved, in which case they are more likely to grow into the skin around the nail.


Should I see the doctor?


  • If your child’s ingrown toenail is infected, you’ll need to seek professional help. Signs of this are redness, swelling, heat, pain, and a blister or discharge at the nail edge.
  • If the treatments listed below don’t improve the ingrown toenail in just a few days, see a podiatrist.


How can I begin treating a child’s ingrown toenail?

Be sure to begin any at-home treatment as soon as you notice the ingrown toenail. Early treatment is the most effective.

  • Soak the foot a few times a day for 10-15 minutes in warm soapy water. This will help to soften the skin and create a bit of space between the toenail and surrounding skin.
  • After a foot soak, apply an antibacterial liquid such as Betadine (iodine).
  • Avoid trying to dig the nail out or cutting it during this time. This can increase chances of infection. Instead, after each foot soak, see if enough space has been created between the toenail and skin for you to carefully slide a soft gauze under the toenail to keep it from growing into the skin.
  • Keep the toes and feet dry and clean through the day.
  • Avoid tight shoes or tight socks and go barefoot when at home.


How can I prevent an ingrown toenail from happening?

Since your child’s feet are growing fast, check their shoes and even socks often to be sure they aren’t too tight. When trimming the toenails, it is usually best to cut straight across rather than rounding the toenail. Avoid cutting the nails too short. You might file the nails to remove any sharp edges too.

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