Ingrown Toenail In Babies - Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Ingrown Toenail In Babies

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Taking care of baby’s overall health and hygiene is very important. This means that nails become an important part of the care taking procedure as they are home to many microbes. Your baby’s toenails may need some special attention from time to time and you should be aware of ingrown toenails which can cause severe discomfort to your baby. MomJunction brings you some important information on ingrown toenail in babies and some recommendations on taking care of those little things.

Before learning about ingrown toenails, which is also called onychocryptosis, let’s understand about toenails in babies.

  • The fingernails grow faster than the toenails in babies.
  • Baby toenails are usually pliable and soft.
  • Toenails need not be trimmed as short as those on fingers.
  • Newborns may have fingernails which can be cut immediately, but not their toenails. Allow them to grow naturally enough for a few months before giving them a trim.
  • As the baby grows, the toenails will turn more defined and harder.

What Is Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail is a nail growing or pressing into the skin. Even though the outer edge of the bigger toe is usually affected, the problem can be seen in any of the toes, or on any extremes of the toenail. Usually, the condition is a result of sides or corners of the toenail digging into the skin at the side or end of the toe. Very long nails or ones that tend to curve in are more susceptible to grow into the toe. Toenails in babies may sometimes look like ingrown as they are soft. But, it should not be a concern until the surrounding skin turns red, hard, or inflamed. The condition is not alarming in babies or children but is common in adults.

Causes Of Ingrown Toenail In Babies

Some of the major causes include:

  • Cutting Nails Wrong: Nails that are trimmed too short into the skin and deep, tend to grow inward. Cutting nails in a curved shaped rather than a straight across, increases the chances of developing an ingrown toenail.

[ Read : How To Trim Your Baby’s Nails ]

  • Tight Socks and Shoes: The most common cause of ingrown toenails is a baby wearing tight-fitting or very short socks or shoes. These tend to apply force on the toenail and toe into each other.
  • Injury: If a baby can lose a nail or part of it due to an injury, the new nail may grow into the skin.
  • Stress On Toe: Repeated stubbing of the toe may lead to an ingrown toenail.
  • Infection: An infection too may cause a toenail to grow into the skin. Fungal infections of the nail may lead to the development of widened or thickened toenail.

Symptoms Of Ingrown Toenail

An early sign of the ingrown toenail is redness or swelling of the skin at the nail’s edge. In babies, the toe may become tender and may even turn painful. The pain may be evident when the toe gets rubbed by a shoe or a tight sock. Your baby may cry or pull at her foot or toe. She may even limp while walking.

[ Read : Fun Games To Encourage Your Baby To Walk ]

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

If you find a blister containing yellowish or whitish fluid surrounded by swollen and red skin that is painful, then it is an ingrown toenail infection. Some discharge may be seen if the blister bursts. The redness or swelling increases as the nail grows in. The baby may or may not develop a fever.

How To Treat Ingrown Toenails In Babies At Home?

1. A simple home remedy may help you treat ingrown toenail. Here are the instructions:

  • Soak your baby’s foot in warm soapy water for nearly ten minutes, twice or thrice each day.
  • Dry and apply over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment on the affected area.
  • Gently try filing the nail away from the skin.
  • If possible, use your nail to slightly lift the baby’s nail and insert a sterile gauze or cotton.
  • Replace the cotton many times each day. You may try this while your baby sleeps.

2. Another remedy is to apply a wet, warm compress on the affected area to help the skin loosen and ease discomfort. You may consider giving carefully measured dosage of acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever, to your baby. However, it is advisable to visit your doctor before considering offering any medicine to your baby.

*Caution: Never give aspirin to your baby as it can trigger Reyer’s syndrome (1).

Make your baby wear loose fitting sandals or shoes until the toe heals. It is even better to leave him bare feet at home. These methods could improve the condition within few days.

When To Take The Baby With Ingrown Toenail To Doctor?

Even after home treatment for a week, if your baby’s ingrown toenail does not improve, it is time to visit a doctor. You may have to visit the doctor even before, if the skin appears too red or looks infected, or even if there is a discharge.

The doctor may suggest an oral or topical antibiotic in case of an infection. If the nail is really offending, the doctor may cut a part of the nail or remove the offending nail away from the skin. He may refer you to a doctor specialized in children feet (pediatric podiatrist) in case of a severe problem (2).

[ Read : How To Treat Fungal Infections In Babies ]

How To Prevent Ingrown Toenails?

By taking few simple measures, ingrown toenails can be prevented to a great extent in babies.

  • Use nail clipper and not scissors to cut baby nails straight across (and not in a round shape).
  • Ensure to cut the toenails before they grow too long, to avoid chipping or breaking suddenly.
  • A long nail may break if it gets stuck in socks and the remaining nail may start growing into the skin.
  • Do not cut the nail too short. Leave a little white line showing at the nail’s end.
  • If possible, file the edges to make sure they are not sharp.
  • Let the newborn’s toenails grow for a while before cutting them.
  • Cutting baby’s toenails while he is asleep may make your job easier.
  • Check your baby’s shoe size regularly as the feet tend to grow faster.
  • Avoid tight shoes or socks.
  • It is not advisable to cut your baby nails with your mouth as the bacteria in your mouth may get transferred to the nails. It may also lead to chipping, causing infection eventually.
  • Upgrade sleepers as you keep a watch on your baby’s growth. Ensure to leave some slack in the sleepers, at the ends of their toes.

[ Read : Tips To Choose The Best Shoes For Your Baby ]


1. What are pseudo-ingrown toenails of the newborn?

A. Ingrown toenails at birth have been recorded in nearly 2% newborn babies probably because the growing nail plate is too short. It is occasionally painful and appears within a year or so (3).

2. Are there any tests for an ingrown toenail?

A. No specific tests are needed to detect the condition. Ingrown toenails are diagnosed based on appearance itself.

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