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Fungal Nail Infection in Children: Care Instructions


A nail that is infected by a fungus usually turns white or yellow. As the fungus spreads, the nail turns a darker colour and gets thicker. And its edges start to turn ragged and crumble. A bad infection can cause pain, and the nail may pull away from the toe or finger.

Nails that are exposed to moisture and warmth a lot are more likely to get infected by a fungus. This can happen from wearing sweaty shoes often and from walking barefoot on shower floors. Or it can happen if your child shares personal things, such as towels and nail clippers.

It is hard to treat nail fungus. And the infection can return after it has cleared up. But medicines can sometimes get rid of nail fungus for good. If the infection is very bad, or if it causes a lot of pain, your child may need to have the nail removed.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Before bed, wash and dry your child's feet or hands well. If the doctor has said to use a topical antifungal medicine, put this medicine directly on your child's skin or nail.
  • Keep your child's feet and hands dry. Dry skin and nails are less likely to get infected. Put powder on dry feet or hands after a shower or bath.
  • Have your child wear dry cotton socks. Change them 2 or 3 times a day if needed.
  • Have your child wear sandals or dry roomy shoes made of materials that allow moisture to escape. Avoid tight shoes.
  • Have your child wear shower sandals or shoes at a public pool or shower. Let them dry between uses.
  • Don't let your child share shoes, socks, nail clippers, or nail files with others.
  • Help your child avoid nail injury. For example, don't cut the nails too short.
  • If you take your child to get their fingernails or toenails done, ask the nail salon if they disinfect tools and basins between guests. You might want to think about bringing your own tools.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the site.
    • Pus draining from the site.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has new or increased toe pain.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.