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Ingrown Toenail in Children: Care Instructions

Picture of how to treat an ingrown toenail

Your Care Instructions

An ingrown toenail often occurs because a nail is not trimmed correctly or because shoes are too tight. An ingrown nail can cause an infection.

If your child's toe is infected, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Most ingrown toenails can be treated at home. Trim each toenail straight across, so the ends of the nail grow over the skin and not into it. Good nail care can prevent ingrown toenails.

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?

  • Trim the nails straight across. Leave the corners a little longer so they do not cut into the skin. To do this when your child has an ingrown nail:
    • Soak the foot in warm water for about 15 minutes to soften the nail.
    • Wedge a small piece of wet cotton under the corner of the nail to cushion the nail and lift it slightly. This keeps it from cutting the skin.
    • Repeat daily until the nail has grown out and can be trimmed.
  • Do not use manicure scissors to dig under the ingrown nail. You might stab the toe, which could get infected.
  • Do not trim the toenails too short.
  • Have your child wear roomy, comfortable shoes.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.

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 toe.
    • Pus draining from the toe.
    • A fever.

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.