Ingrown toenails are sometimes thought of as an adult problem, but the truth is they are very common among kids, too. Anyone can develop the condition, even infants. Although treated largely the same way, there are some additional considerations when a child’s toe is affected, especially very young children, who may be unable to care for themselves and may be very nervous about going to the doctor’s office.
How Can I Tell if My Child Has an Ingrown Nail?
In this condition, the edge of a nail—usually, but not always, on a great toe—grows down and into the surrounding skin. Characteristic symptoms include redness, swelling, and pain. You may notice that the toe is very tender, and your child may limp or walk gingerly (especially when wearing shoes).
Very commonly, ingrown toenails can become infected, which may result in feverish symptoms, blistering, and maybe even oozy discharge and odor if the blister breaks.
Why Kids Get Ingrown Toenails (and How to Prevent Them)
As with adults, ingrown nails in kids are usually caused by either pressure from too-tight footwear or improper toenail trimming technique.
Kids’ feet are still growing—sometimes at the rate of half a shoe size every few months—so it’s important for mom and dad to measure their little one’s feet regularly and upgrade to the correct size whenever necessary. This is especially important if your child participates in any sports or athletic activities.
Likewise, make sure you practice good trimming technique when you clip your child’s nails, and teach them to do it properly when they’re ready. You should cut straight across, from corner to corner, without rounding the corners or leaving the nail too short. This reduces the likelihood that an ingrown nail will develop.
Home Remedies for Pediatric Ingrown Nails
If an ingrown toenail is still very minor, you may be able to help your little one with gentle at-home care.
- Soak your child’s feet in warm, soapy water for around 10 minutes at a time, 2-3 times per day. Babies will probably love this, although older kids might resist. After the soak, dry and apply a little antibiotic ointment to help with the swelling and prevent infection.
- Try to gently lift the nail from the skin by placing a sterile piece of cotton, gauze, or floss under the nail. Again, the age and discipline of your child matters a lot here—younger kids especially might not be able to sit still for the procedure, or will try to remove the cotton. It may be easier to do this while your child is sleeping.
- Have your child go barefoot (at home) or wear loose-fitting shoes or sandals (when out) while healing to avoid painful pressure.
When to Call the Podiatrist
If your child suffers from diabetes or nerve damage, you notice evidence of an infection or the problem is getting worse rather than better, your child is resisting home care efforts, or home care has not cleared the problem after a week of treatment, you should give us a call for professional care.
What a Pediatric Podiatrist Can Do
For stubborn ingrown nails, we will perform a procedure known as a partial nail avulsion. We’ll using a local anesthetic to completely numb your child’s toe, then remove the edge portion of the nail that’s digging into the skin. We’ll also drain any liquid that may have built up under the nail, and prescribe antibiotics if there are any signs of infection.
We know a doctor’s visit can be scary for a child, so we do everything we can to put your little one at ease during the procedure. The partial nail removal itself should not cause any pain, and should provide near immediate relief from the discomfort of the condition. It may take a couple of months for the full toenail to grow back.
If your child is suffering from a painful ingrown toenail, contact Dr. Darren Silvester at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic for compassionate, gentle, and thorough care. For an appointment in Pleasanton or Universal City, TX, give us a call at 855-972-9512.