Ingrown Toenails in Children

Ingrown toenails can happen in children of any age and are most likely to develop on the big toe. In some situations, other toenails and fingernails may be affected as well, although cases of ingrown fingernails are rare.

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Infection can occur in the wound due to skin breakages caused by sharp nail edges. If unaddressed, ingrown toenails are likely to recur and an infection may create severe complications if it spreads to the surrounding soft tissues, blood stream, or bones.

Ingrown Toenails May Be Caused By:

  • Improperly trimmed nails leaving a spike at the corner
  • Crowding of toes due to tight footwear
  • Trauma to the feet
  • Poor nail picking habits
  • Growth and development of the child

Once an ingrown nail penetrates the skin, the wound will not heal properly unless the spike is removed and the infection is eradicated.

Ingrown Toenails in Babies and Toddlers

Main Symptoms

Babies as young as 3 months old can develop ingrown nails due to the rapid growth of the nails and surrounding flesh. Nail growth must be monitored from birth as the child is most often unable to verbalise the pain. Symptoms of ingrown toenails can include:

  • Tender and painful toe(s) mainly when rubbed or squeezed even lightly by a tight shoe or sock
  • Slight pressure around the area of the toenail causes your child to cry out or become uncomfortable
  • Limping or frowning while walking or crawling
  • Changes in skin colour around the toenail

Naturally wider nail plates can also lead to ingrown toenails and must be managed well to avoid complications.

Home Remedies

Younger paediatric cases of ingrown toenails are relatively unique due to the way children are handled in clinical settings. Although often used on infections in adults, the use of local anaesthetic and antibiotics can pose a safety risk to a young child, requiring the use of alternative methods to resolve the issue.

It is recommended that you soak your toddler’s foot in warm antiseptic water for a few minutes two or three times a day. This cleanses the area, reduces the likelihood of infection, and increases the malleability of the nail so it can be nudged back into shape.

If the ingrown toenail seems to be infected, apply a small amount of topical antiseptic on the nail after cleansing. Never attempt “bathroom surgery” by trying to cut or dig out the ingrown toenail on your own. This can cause significant distress to your child, aggravate their ingrown toenail, and increase the risk of infection.

If you notice worsening symptoms in your child, such as a spreading redness around the toe, we recommend visiting a podiatrist for advice. In most cases, your podiatrist may need to carefully and gently remove a section of the ingrown nail from the side of the toe to provide relief.

How to Prevent?

Good nail cutting habits:
  • Teach your children to not pick at or peel their toenails
  • Use clippers rather than scissors to trim your child’s toenails
  • Cut the nail relatively straight across rather than in a rounded shape
  • Be sure not to cut the nails too short, it is best to leave a thin layer of the nail from the nail bed
Footwear care:

Once a toddler is walking and running around, they usually start spending more time in shoes rather than being barefoot. Your child’s shoes should not be too tight or small as this can place pressure on the toenails, causing them to push into the surrounding skin. This is especially important as your toddler is growing fast and can outgrow shoes in a matter of months. A child’s shoes should always be checked to ensure that they:

  • Are both the correct width and length
  • Have a gap at the front of the shoe and should allow for the child to wiggle their toes
Biomechanical issues:

As your child starts to walk and run around more you may start to notice the position of their feet and overall posture; perhaps their feet have a different shape to other kids of their age?

Any abnormal foot positioning can increase pressure on the toes and affect the formation of the nail plate. It is important to check your child’s foot posture regularly and visit your podiatrist if you notice any changes.

Ingrown Toenails in Children and Teenagers

Main Symptoms

Ingrown toenails are a common condition that can occur in older children – teenagers in particular. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and tenderness when pressure is applied on the toe or the surrounding area
  • A noticeable limp
  • The presence of pus or yellow fluid

Growth spurts can cause the nail to grow larger than the surrounding flesh or vice versa, and children with wider nail plates face a higher risk of getting ingrown toenails. These must be managed well to avoid any complications.

Home Remedies

If your child has an ingrown toenail, the condition will not resolve without removal of the offending nail spicule. Soaking the foot in a dilute solution of warm water and antiseptic solution can help to ease symptoms, and covering with a plaster can reduce infection.

If your child has an ingrown toenail, soaking the affected foot in a dilute solution of warm water and antiseptic solution for 10 minutes 1 – 2 times per day can help to ease symptoms. After soaking the nail, apply an over-the-counter topical antiseptic solution to the affected nail edge and cover with a clean dressing or band-aid. Keeping the affected nail area clean and covered helps to prevent infection.

Never attempt “bathroom surgery” by trying to cut or dig out the ingrown toenail on your own. This can cause significant distress to your child, aggravate their ingrown toenail, and increase the risk of infection.

It’s important that your child has well-fitting shoes to minimise friction and minor trauma to the toenail beds. In particular, make that the widest part of the shoe is appropriate for the widest part of your child’s foot.

If you notice a spreading red skin colouration around the toe or if the condition is sufficiently severe, we recommend visiting a podiatrist so the infection can be managed professionally. Your podiatrist may need to carefully and gently remove a section of the ingrown nail from the side of the toe to provide relief.

How Can a Podiatrist Helps?

Podiatrists are foot experts that specialise in performing small delicate procedures with razor-sharp precision, incurring only minimal damage to the areas around the ingrown nail.

A minor in-clinic procedure will be conducted to remove the offending spike and the nail will be trimmed to a length that will promote proper pain-free growth. Following this, your podiatrist will apply a suitable dressing to help encourage wound healing and reduce any localised infection.

Podiatric care for ingrown toenails has several advantages:

  • No stitches
  • Swift recovery
  • Low rate of recurrence
  • Aesthetically pleasing results

Individuals with eyesight problems, mobility issues, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other circulatory disorders should avoid any form of self-remedy and seek immediate medical attention. Ingrown nails can have severe complications and heightened risks for these individuals.

A total nail removal surgery may be unavoidable in cases of severe, recurrent, non-resolving, or incurvated toenails where the nail naturally fans outward or involutes (curls down at the sides). Please consult with your podiatrist to find out if you are suitable for this procedure as restrictions may apply depending on your health status.

How to Prevent?

Ingrown toenails can be prevented by:

  • Teaching your child how to trim their toenails properly. This involves cutting the toenails in a fairly straight line, and ensuring they are not cut too short.
  • Wearing proper-fitting shoes. Supportive footwear helps to keep your toes in a comfortable position and allows the nails to grow in a natural, unhindered way.
  • Taking care to be conscious of your surroundings. Ensure the home is clear of tripping hazards and potential falling objects that could cause harm to the feet.

Contact us if you have any questions or if you would like to make an appointment with a podiatrist to assess your child’s ingrown toenail. Your podiatrist will recommend suitable intervention and suggest prevention methods to reduce the occurrence of future ingrown toenails.

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I absolutely loved this place, my daughter had an ingrown toenail and they took care of her very nicely. Podiatrist Millie gave her the best care possible and she currently is recovering. The staff is very sweet and nice to us. The clinic is fantastic and I definitely recommend this place. 5 stars.

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