Has your toddler been complaining that their foot hurts? If so, it could be a sign of an ingrown toenail.
Ingrown toenails are most commonly associated with adults, but it’s actually a really common nail issue for toddlers and babies, too.
Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about this common problem, from what it is, to how it can be prevented and treated.
What Are Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails occur when the nail grows into the skin, usually at the edge of the toe. As it gets longer, the nail penetrates through the skin, causing a surprising amount of pain. It’s medically referred to as “unguis incarnatus” or “onychocryptosis”. Although any of the toes can be affected, ingrown toenails do tend to be more common in the big toe.
There are a few different factors which can cause the condition in toddlers, including:
- Sensitive skin
- Shoes or socks which are too tight
- Natural curved toenail growth
- The nails haven’t been cut correctly
Out of all of the different causes above, shoes or socks which are too tight tend to be the main culprit. So, how can you distinguish an ingrown toenail from other foot and nail infections
How To Spot The Symptoms
One of the earliest signs of an ingrown toenail is swelling or redness at the edge of the toe nail. It will also usually feel tender and often quite painful for your toddler when it’s touched.
Another symptom to watch out for is if your little one is wincing when they walk, or if they’re reluctant to place the foot down completely on the ground. As the nail continues to grow, the swelling and redness will also become much more noticeable.
If left untreated, there’s the possibility the ingrown toenail may become infected. If you spot a blister filled with either yellow or white colored fluid, it’s a sure sign the toe has become infected.
How To Treat Your Toddlers Ingrown Toenail
The treatment advised for ingrown toenails in toddlers will depend upon the severity of the problem. If you suspect it is infected, you’ll need to take your little one to the doctor. In fact, it’s always better to seek medical advice, even if you don’t think the problem is serious.
The good news is, the majority of ingrown toenails in toddlers don’t require serious treatment. They often clear up themselves within a few weeks, though there are things you can do to encourage healing and help your toddler feel more comfortable until it clears up.
1. Soak The Foot – Soaking the foot in soapy warm water several times a day is one of the most effective ways to treat the problem. Make sure the water is warm and not hot, and soak it for around 10 minutes, up to three times each day. After 10 minutes is up, pat the foot dry and then apply a little antibiotic ointment which you can buy over the counter.
As with all medications, make sure the ointment you buy is suitable to be used on toddlers. You can ask the staff at the drug store, or ideally seek advice from your doctor.
2. Use Sterile Cotton Or Gauze – One way to provide relief from the pain and to prevent the nail from growing deeper into the skin is to use a piece of sterile cotton or a gauze.
You’ll need to use your nails to lift the nail very slightly away from the skin. Next, place the sterile cotton or gauze underneath the nail. This will provide a cushion, preventing the nail from irritating the skin further, giving it chance to heal. You should change the cotton every few hours to keep it clean and prevent infection.
TIP – You may find this tricky to do when your toddler is awake. If the toe is very sore, they may be reluctant to let you anywhere near it. In this instance, you could try doing it when your toddler is asleep.
3. Ensure They Are Wearing Loose Shoes And Socks – Until the toe heals, it’s important to ensure your toddler wears loose shoes and socks. This will ease the pain and prevent the problem getting any worse.
The above steps are usually very effective at treating an ingrown toenail in toddlers. However, if the problem is severe you will need to seek advice and treatment from a doctor.
Can You Prevent Ingrown Toenails?
There are a few things you can do to prevent your toddler developing an ingrown toenail.
Firstly, making sure the toenails are cut properly, with nail clippers rather than scissors, is the most important thing you should focus on.
You’ll want to cut the nails directly across, rather than trying to do it in a more rounded shape. The nails should be cut before they get too long to break by themselves. If they do start to break off, part of the nail could end up in the sock, while the leftover part could begin to grow into the skin.
With that in mind, it’s also important not to cut your toddlers toenails too short. There should be some white part still showing at the end of the nail. A good tip is to gently file the edges of the nail so they’re smooth and less likely to grow into, or irritate, the skin.
Another way to prevent ingrown toenails is to ensure the socks and shoes are loose enough. Tight shoes in particular can really pinch the feet and squash the toes; leading to ingrown toenails. Tight socks can also have the same effect, but it’s more common for the shoes to cause the problem.
As toddlers grow quickly, their shoe size will need to be measured frequently to ensure they’re wearing the right size.
Overall, ingrown toenails are a common issue for toddlers, but they are usually very easy to treat. If there doesn’t appear to be an infection but the ingrown toenail hasn’t resolved itself after a week of treatment at home, you should take your toddler to the doctor.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or licensed medical professional before making any medical decisions.