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Ingrown Toenail

Brief Version

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail is when part of the toenail is rubbing against the corner of the toe. It is usually caused by tight shoes like cowboy boots. When a toenail is ingrown, your child's toe will be tender, red, and swollen.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Soak the toe. Soak the foot for 20 minutes twice a day in warm water and antibacterial soap. While the foot is soaking, massage outward the swollen part of the cuticle.
  • Use antibiotic ointment. Apply an antibiotic ointment (no prescription needed) 5 or 6 times a day.
  • Cut off the corner of the toenail. The pain is caused by the corner of the toenail rubbing against the raw cuticle. Your health care provider will cut this corner off. Your health care provider will need to do this only once. This helps the nail grow over the nail cuticle rather than get stuck in it. During soaks try to bend the corners of the nail upward.
  • Don't wear shoes. Have your child wear sandals or go barefoot as much as possible to prevent pressure on the toenail. When your child must wear closed shoes, protect the ingrown toenail as follows:
    • If the inner edge of the toenail is hurt, tape a foam pad between the first and second toes to keep them from touching.
    • If the outer edge is hurt, tape a foam pad to the outside of the ball of the toe to keep the toenail from touching the side of the shoe.

How can I prevent ingrown toenails?

Make sure that your child's shoes are not too narrow. Get rid of any pointed or tight shoes. Cut the toenails straight across, leaving the corners.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Your child develops a fever.
  • A red streak spreads beyond the toe.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • Any pus or yellow drainage is not cleared up after 48 hours of treatment.
  • The cuticle has not totally healed in 2 weeks.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-10
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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