Fungal Nail Infection In Children: Symptoms, Remedies And Treatment

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Fungal nail infection is termed onychomycosis, and it may affect both fingernails and toenails. While common in adults, fungal nail infection in children is rare. Only 2.5% of all babies and children are known to be affected by the fungal infection. However, the frequency of fungal nail infections in children has increased over the last few years (1) (2). Read this post as we bring to you the causes, signs and symptoms, home remedies, treatment, and prevention of fungal nail infections in children.

Causes Of Fungal Nail Infection In Children

Fungal infection is caused by a variety of fungi belonging to the groups of dermatophytes, non-dermatophytic molds, and yeasts. They cause infection when they have the right conditions to attach and propagate on a nail. The following factors can cause a fungus to infect a fingernail or toenail (3) (4) (5).

  1. Wearing shoes with restricted ventilation and socks that do not absorb perspiration, or boots all day may cause fungal toenail infection due to sweat.
  1. Sharing towels and napkins with others may cause the child to catch the fungus.
  1. Children who play in water or swim may have their hands and feet damp for a long time, thus increasing the risk of fungal infection.
  1. Children with diabetes, suppressed or weakened immune system, and problems with the circulation system may be at a higher risk.
  1. Some conditions, like psoriasis and Down syndrome, increase the risk. Existing nail injuries may also increase the risk.
  1. An existing Athlete’s foot (fungal infection in the foot) may cause the spread of infection to other toenails, from where it could reach fingernails.
  2. Humid and warm environment may increase the overall risk of fungal infection.

Signs And Symptoms Of Fungal Nail Infection In Children

The signs of fungal nail infection vary from one child to another. While some may have yellowish nails, others could have dull nails. Some of the common signs include (6):

  • The color of the nail might change to yellow, brown, or white
  • The nail may get dry or crumble or start to come off
  • Nails may either get thinner or thicker
  • Debris may be forming under the nails
  • Nails may crumble or become rough
  • Dull or no shine in the nails

Diagnosis Of Fungal Nail Infection In Children 

The dermatologist or the doctor will examine the nail and skin around it for symptoms of fungal infection. A sample of the nail debris could be collected for analyzing it under a microscope. It can help conclusively diagnose fungal infection and the exact type of fungus causing the infection. (7).

Treatment And Home Remedies For Fungal Nail Infection 

The doctor may prescribe any of the following treatment methods to cure the infected toe or fingernail (1).

  1. Oral medication: These are antifungal medicines administered orally. Common examples of these medicines are griseofulvin and terbinafine. Griseofulvin is the only drug that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pediatric use, but the medicine does not cure all cases of infection. Terbinafine is more effective but not approved by the FDA for pediatric use. Some studies find the drug to be safe for children. A doctor may consider administering terbinafine in the case of older children and teens. Nevertheless, never self-medicate with these medicines.
  1. Topical treatment: It involves topical application of antifungal ointments, creams, and lotions. The US FDA approves the use of the medicines Tavaborole, Amorolfine, Efinaconazole, and Ciclopirox to treat fungal nail infection. Your child’s doctor will prescribe the medicine needed to treat the fungal nail infection in the child (1) (7).
  1. Combination therapy: A doctor may consider the use of oral and topical antifungal medicines together. Combination therapy may be considered if one mode of treatment does not work or if the infection is severe. Combination therapy may work faster than using a single plan.
  1. Nonpharmacological approaches include:
  • Laser treatment
  • Photodynamic therapy
  1. Nail removal: The doctor may suggest the removal of the nail when other methods of treatment do not yield results. Nail removal can be achieved by the application of chemicals that cause the nail to fall. If this process is not possible, then the doctor may perform minor surgery to remove the infected nail from the nailbed. 

Some substances and compounds can be applied topically to the affected nail at home. These home remedies for fungal nail infection have anecdotal evidence, but more research may be needed to support them scientifically.

  1. A study found that the topical application of Vicks VapoRub could treat the affected nail. The cure happened when Vicks VapoRub was applied once in a day for 48 weeks (11 months) (8).
  1. Application of tea tree oil with a cotton swab twice daily for six months may help provide relief (9).
  1. Regular application of oregano oil may help treat toenail fungus. Oregano oil contains a compound called thymol, which is known for its antifungal properties (10).
  1. Snakeroot extract contains antifungal properties. The topical application could help treat fungal nail infections (11).
  1. Application of plain or white vinegar may also be useful in treating fungal nail infection (12).

If your doctor prescribes a medicine for the infection, then stop the use of home remedies since it may interfere with the effective action of the medicinal compound.

Can Fungal Nail Infection Be Prevented?

It is possible to prevent fungal nail infection in children by following a few simple measures.

  • Parents should see that their children stay away from pets and individuals who have a fungal infection.
  • Soap, shampoos, towels, and combs of your children should not be used by others to prevent the spread of fungal infection from others.
  • Teach your children about good hygiene practices. For instance, washing hands with soap, keeping nails trimmed, and changing socks regularly can help prevent infections.
  • If your child sweats a lot or you live in a humid climate, then you may consider using talcum powder to absorb perspiration.

Fungal nail infection may develop in children when their hands and feet are damp for long, weakened immune systems, or live in warm and humid environments. As a result, they may experience a change in color of the nails, rough nails, or debris formed under the nails. Consult a doctor for any fungal nail infection. The treatment procedure may involve medications, topical ointments, or laser therapy. Home remedies, such as tea tree oil and oregano oil may also work. It is important to follow the full course of treatment suggested by the doctor to prevent a relapse of the infection. Also, maintaining good hygiene and managing perspiration can minimize the spread of infection.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. D. Arevalo; Safe Treatments for Nail Fungus Infections for Infants and Kids; Global Nail Fungus Organization (2017)
2. D. M. Kim, M. K. Suh, and G. Y. Ha; Onychomycosis in Children: An Experience of 59 Cases; Annals of Dermatology (2013)
3. Fungal Infections of Fingernails and Toenails; American Academy of Family Physicians (2001)
4. Fungal Nail Infections; HealthLink British Columbia
5. Fungal Nail Infection; University of Missouri-Kansas City
6. Nail Fungus: Signs And Symptoms; American Academy of Dermatalogy7. Nail Fungus: Diagnosis And Treatment; American Academy of Dermatalogy
8. R. Derby et al.; Novel Treatment of Onychomycosis using Over-the-Counter Mentholated Ointment: A Clinical Case Series; Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (2011)
9. D. AbdelHamid et al.; Evaluation of the Therapeutic Efficacy of Tea Tree Oil in Treatment of Onychomycosis; International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research (2017)
10. Does oil of oregano help toe nail fungus and what natural ointment can I buy to help my toe?; Institute for Preventive Foot Health
11. D. P. Westerberg and M. J. Voyack; Onychomycosis: Current Trends in Diagnosis and Treatment; American Academy of Family Physicians (2013)
12.The Ultimate Guide to Understanding and Treating Finger and Toenail Fungus; Global Nail Fungus Organization
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Dr. Vivek Goswami

Dr. Vivek Goswami is a senior consultant pediatrician and neonatologist at Fortis Hospital, Noida. With an experience of 12 years, he has a passion for providing dedicated, state-of-the-art pediatric and adolescent care.    Dr. Goswami has completed his MD in Pediatrics from Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC), one of the biggest and premier pediatric institutes in... more

Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate the latest advancements in the field of dentistry into her practice. She also holds a certificate in lactation counselling from iNational Health... more