Ingrown Toenail in Babies

The real deal on how to spot an ingrown toenail in your baby — and the best way to prevent one.
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By Jennifer L.W. Fink, Registered Nurse
Updated March 2, 2017
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What is an ingrown toenail like for a baby?

An ingrown toenail is exactly what it sounds like — a toenail that’s growing into the skin, rather than out over the top of the toe. The ingrown toenail can cause redness, swelling and pain, and may lead to infection.

What are the symptoms of an ingrown toenail in babies?

“The area at the edge of the nail starts to get raised,” says Katherine O’Connor, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City. “It usually starts out flesh-colored but can gradually get red and painful.”

Are there any tests for an ingrown toenail in babies?

No tests are necessary. Ingrown toenails are diagnosed based on appearance.

How common are ingrown toenails in babies?

Ingrown toenails aren’t unusual or alarming in children, but they’re more common in adults.

How did my baby get an ingrown toenail?

There are two major causes of ingrown toenails in young kids: 1) improper nail cutting and 2) improper shoe size. Trimming toenails too close to the skin or cutting them in a curve rather than straight across the toe increases your child’s chances of developing an ingrown toenail. And wearing shoes that are too short or too tight may force the toe and toenail into each other.

What’s the best way to treat an ingrown toenail in babies?

Apply a warm, wet compress to the area to help loosen up the skin and ease the discomfort, suggests O’Connor. If the area is red, warm or very painful, it’s time to see a physician, because your child might have developed an infection.

What can I do to prevent my baby from getting an ingrown toenail?

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“Make sure you’re cutting your child’s nails straight across,” O’Connor says. “It’s always better to keep them a little bit longer than to cut them too short. If needed, you can cover them up with socks rather than overcutting.”

What do other moms do when their babies have an ingrown toenail?

“I just noticed it this morning. It doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all, but it’s pretty red. I’ve never trimmed his toenails before because they seem to be just starting to grow now. I’ve been putting Polysporin on it in case of infection, but I haven’t done anything else with it.”

“My son gets ingrown fingernails and had an ingrown toenail just last week. My doctor says it’s pretty common in infants. She told me to do a warm compress a few times a day and to put Neosporin on it. After a few days, it clears up. No big deal. And it never seems to bother him either.”

“My son had one, too, when we got home from the hospital. We, being the freaked-out parents that we are, brought him to the ER (yes, I know, a little overboard)! They did prescribe him an antibiotic just to be on the safe side (he had a rough start!). They said to massage the skin away from the nail with a warm compress and to make sure there was no red line going from the toe, up the leg (toward the heart).”

Are there any other resources for ingrown toenail in babies?

The Bump expert: Katherine O’Connor, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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