What Do I Do If My Child Has an Ingrown Toenail?

by | Jun 28, 2018 | Ingrown Toenails

Being in pain is no fun. Seeing your child in pain is even worse.

Ingrown toenails are unfortunately very common in children, and they can make it very difficult for your child to run, play, or even just put on a pair of shoes without throbbing pain.

Worse, ingrown toenails can linger for weeks or longer, and even become infected, if they aren’t cared for promptly and properly. So, at the first sign that your child is hurting, you’re going to want to take action.

Background: Ingrown Toenails

So, what is an ingrown toenail anyway? If you aren’t sure, read on. If not, go ahead and skip ahead to the next section.

Basically, an ingrown toenail is what happens when the border or a corner of a nail starts curving into the nearby skin, rather gently laying overtop of it. Sometimes both corners of the nail are affected, sometimes just one.

The vast majority of ingrown toenails occur on the big toe, but in rare cases it can happen to the smaller ones, too.

Ingrown toenails tend to make the toe tender, red, and swollen. Your child may yelp with pain if you press on the swollen part of the toe gently.

If the injury becomes infected, you might even notice a buildup of fluid. Infected ingrown toenails can be very dangerous for children, since their immune systems are still underdeveloped.

In other words? Don’t wait until the problem gets to that point. Seek help for your child as early as you can.

What Caused Your Child’s Ingrown Toenails?

As soon as you notice ingrown toenails in your child, you should call our office and schedule an appointment. In the meantime, you should try to make a quick evaluation of the situation and consider the probable causes.

For kids, ingrown toenails are typically related to one of more of the following factors:

Shoe gear.

Kids’ feet grow fast—sometimes really, really fast. Just about every parents understands that finding a pair of shoes that’ll fit junior for more than a month or two at a time can be a challenge!

Unfortunately, shoes that don’t fit are one of the most common causes of ingrown toenails. If your child has outgrown his or her shoes and space near the toes gets cramped, this may press the nails inward.

But shoes that are too big can be just as bad! If your child’s feet are sliding around in their shoes and slamming their toes against the front of the shoe when they run that repetitive trauma can cause ingrown nails, too.

Nail trimming.

The biggest mistake parents and kids make is trimming their toenails too short, or too curved at the corners. This can provide ample opportunity for nails to snag and dig into the surrounding skin as they grow outward.

Make sure you trim your child’s nails properly, and teach them to do the same. Not too short—about even with the end of the toe—and not too curved at the corners.

Activity and Injuries.

Kids who do a lot of running and kicking are more prone to developing ingrown toenails due to the repetitive trauma on their toes. They are common in youth soccer players, for example, as well as cross country runners.


This one’s the hardest for parents to hear.

It may be that you or your child have done nothing wrong whatsoever, yet ingrown toenails continue to be a problem. Unfortunately, some people are just born with unusually curved nails. For this reason, we sometimes even see infants with ingrown toenails, even before they’re ever worn a pair of closed-toe shoes.

However, this is not as bad as it first seems. Because even if your child is hereditarily predisposed to ingrown toenails, there’s an easy and permanent solution.

Speaking of which …

What do I do if my child has an ingrown toenail?

How to Fix Your Child’s Ingrown Toenail

Take your child into see Dr. Truong. Our team will carefully and gently evaluate the condition of your child’s nails. We’ll also talk to both you and your little one about their symptoms, activities, when pain started, probable causes, etc.

Most likely, we will recommend a minor in-office procedure (performed right then and there) to remove the ingrown nail border. First, we’ll numb the toe, then we’ll gently cut and remove just enough nail to eliminate the digging. It’s really and quite quick and painless, and brings really rapid relief—for both child and parent!

Trust us—we perform this procedure a lot on kids of all ages, and the vast majority of them do great. We know it can be a little scary for a child, but we do our best to make them feel comfortable, and the actual procedure is pretty easy-peasy, if not lemon squeezy. The initial shot is the worst part; after that there should be no discomfort whatsoever.

But won’t the ingrown toenail just come back?

Not in most cases, because in addition to removing the ingrown nail border, we’ll also typically remove the corresponding portion of the nail matrix.

What does that mean? It means that we’re not just removing the troublesome edge of the nail border, but preventing it from growing back as well.

Although this matrix procedure is optional, it is highly recommended in most cases, especially if heredity is suspected to be a contributing cause. Instead of risking a recurrence—and therefore more pain, more suffering, and another trip to the doctor—why not just be done with ingrown toenails forever?

What about home remedies?

In general, we do not recommend them. Most are ineffective and only prolong the healing and recovery process even if they do work. In the worst-case scenario, they could actually increase the risk of infection. Taking your child to see Dr. Truong will yield faster, safer, more predictable, and permanent results.

How long will recovery last?

Full recovery for most kids and adolescents typically lasts a couple of weeks, although it depends on how severe the ingrown toenail was in the first place, and how well the injury is allowed to heal.

The good news is that kids don’t have to wait for “full” recovery before they start feeling better. In fact, they should start feeling a lot better right away, and should have no problems going to school, doing their chores, etc. right away the next day.

As they heal, keep your kids in open-toed shoes to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the nail. They’ll have to skip out on the PE, swimming, or sports for a couple of weeks, but usually no longer than that.

We’ll have more specific instructions and expectations at your appointment.

So that’s the story! Fortunately, treatment isn’t too hard or too scary, and neither you nor your child must keep worrying. To schedule an appointment, please give the Kansas Foot Center a call today at (866) 222-5177.