Ingrown toenails are a common condition that we treat in children. Some causes of ingrown toenails in children and adolescents include:
- An inherited tendency for the nails to curve, which predisposes the nails to ingrowing
- Factors such as tight shoes, tight socks, and incorrect nail cutting technique can contribute to ingrown toenails
- A tendency to pick at the nails, allowing them to become too short, can also increase the chance of a toenail becoming ingrown.
- Some medications (such as acne medication like Roaccutane), can increase the risk of ingrown toenails due to skin sensitivity and fragility associated with this medication, making the skin more prone to trauma.
Many children may not tell their parents about their ingrown toenail, however it can become very painful and can even lead to serious infections if not treated.
How can I help prevent my child from getting an ingrown toenail?
One of the most helpful things to prevent ingrown toenails is to teach your child how to trim their toenails properly. This involves cutting the toenails in a fairly straight line, and ensuring they are not cut too short.
It’s also important to ensure that your child has well-fitting shoes, to minimise friction or minor trauma to the toe nail beds. In particular, make sure shoes are wide enough, and that the widest part of the shoe is appropriate for the widest part of your child’s foot.
What should I do if I think my child has an ingrown toenail?
If your child has an ingrown toenail, soaking the toenail in a dilute solution of warm water and Epsom Salts (10-15 minutes, 1-2 times per day) can help to ease symptoms. After soaking the nail, apply an over-the-counter topical antiseptic solution (such as Betadine) to the affected nail edge, and cover with a clean dressing or bandaid. Keeping the affected nail area clean and covered helps to prevent infection.
If your child has an inherited tendency to ingrown toenails, where the nail naturally fans outward or involutes (curls down at the sides), our initial treatment is usually conservative. During the initial consultation, our treatment includes trimming down the sides of the nail to provide relief, together with conservative advice on how to maintain the nails in a shape that reduces the chance of ingrown toenails recurring. The duration for which this conservative treatment is effective, will help to guide whether it is best to consider a more permanent procedure such as a nail operation. For example, if the ingrown toenail recurs quite quickly following conservative treatment, ingrown toenail surgery is more likely to be the best option for your child.
We strongly advise against parents trying to cut ingrown toenails out themselves as there is a high risk of infection and other complications.
Recurrent or non-resolving ingrown toenails are best treated with a minor surgical procedure to remove a portion of the ingrown toenail. This is a procedure that we routinely perform in our clinics under a local anaesthetic. To minimise discomfort (particularly in children), we use a cold spray to numb the skin prior to injecting the local anaesthetic.
Our Podiatrists and clinics are very child-friendly and we are more than happy to discuss any concerns or queries you may have in relation whether this procedure is appropriate for your child. Please contact your nearest clinic or Freecall 1800-4-ENTIRE (that’s 1800-4-368473) if you would like to discuss this in more detail.