Ingrown Toenails In Toddlers: Everything You Need To KnowHas 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
  • Injury
  • 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.

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  1. It mentioned above here, to prevent Ingrown Toenails, we should properly cut the nail using nail clippers rather than scissors. Well, definitely true and I would like to add some suggestions in here that when we use a nail clipper, be sure it is nail clipper for baby. You can buy it on baby’s store. Do not use a big nail clipper. In my own experience before when I cut nails of my baby, I use big nail cutter and I accidentally cut the side skin of the nail. Hope you’ll learn from my mistakes. I also agree in this blog that don’t cut your toddlers toenails too short.

  2. It is such a bad experience for any kid to have toenails not only because of the pain but also for it will be a new experience for the mother that has got no clue on how such thing should be treated.

    As I was reading, I read where you said about using nail clippers to cut the baby’s nails and not scissors and I must say that it is one of the major issues that mothers have which is not taking good care of their baby’s health at that tender health. I’m saying this from what I see happening around me anyway. I commend you for providing solutions to toenails in kids, I will have to jot it for future use.

  3. Wow! This is a good piece of information. I chose to attend the militamy academy instead of going to college, and as its generally known, 80% of the time we wore uniforms and boots, so am very aware of ingrown toenails which i initially thought is only common amongst adults like you pointed out. Thanks your post, I now know differently.

    Ingrown toenails are uncomfortably painful and a large no of people barely know about it or mistake it for something else which am sure will be the case on toddlers. I’ll be sure to keep a close watch over my kids now that I know it’s also common with toddlers. Thanks for sharing the tips above.

  4. I had ingrown toenails twice already because of the shoes I wore at work and ow. It truly does hurt so I can only imagine how painful it must be for the toddlers. It is a great article to raise some awareness regarding this issue because I have more than one friend that cuts their toddlers toenails with the small scissors. I told them that they shouldn’t be doing it but they just don’t listen.

    I always do like you said and try to cut the nail more straight rather than rounded. It seems to be working so far because he luckily didn’t have any ingrown toenail yet. I hope that it stays this way!

  5. I so seldom cut my baby’s nails with clippers before, I always use nail file because of her sensitive skin, her nails are so thin, thats why a nile file will do. Until now she’s used to used a nail file for her fingers but a nail clipper for her toes. Cutting nails just straight across is way lot better for kids that the round shape. Putting moisturizer will also help around the nails.

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