Does My Baby Have An Ingrown Toenail?

March 22, 2023

Noticed an area of red, swollen skin at the side of your baby’s toenail and wondering if it’s possible that they’ve developed an ingrown toenail? It absolutely is – we’ve treated ingrown nails in infants as young as three months old – and it can happen earlier than that, too.

Signs Your Baby Has An Ingrown Toenail

The image to the right shows an ingrown toenail uncovered by a parent at just 3.5 months old. Some signs that your baby may have an ingrown toenail include:
  • A peeling skin appearance at the corner of the nail and toe, as illustrated
  • Redness and swelling on one distinct corner of the toe (or both if baby has an ingrown nail on both sides of the nail)
  • You notice them cry or squirm when the toe is touched, either accidentally or from things like swaddles and clothing
  • You see any discharge coming from the toe (this indicates that the nail has likely pierced the skin)

Why Has My Baby Developed An Ingrown Toenail?

The most common reason we see for ingrown toenails in babies is simply having a genetic predisposition for it – such as naturally having curly toenails, or still having a lot of skin surrounding the toenail for the nail to grow into. Other causes include the position of the babies in the womb – particularly if the foot is squished up with pressure being applied to the toes. The use of tight swaddling, tight booties or other clothing can also contribute to ingrown toenails, though this is less common at this age where footwear is not often worn.  An incorrect nail-cutting technique is a very common attribute in adults, but is also much less common in babies. However, it can occur if the nail was ‘pulled’ off and a sharper or prominent nail edge was left behind at the side of the toenail.

What Should You Do If Your Baby Has An Ingrown Toenail?

The most important thing at this stage is to help get your baby out of pain and discomfort. Ideally you want to trim back the part of the nail that is pressing against the skin and causing the ingrown nail, though you will need very thin nail scissors and not standard clippers to achieve this.  There are a few things parents should know: most likely, your baby will not enjoy the process of their sore and painful nail being trimmed back. This is normal – you are not hurting them, their ingrown toenail is. Once the nail is out of the skin, they will get so much relief. The next is that in some cases, there may be a little bleeding. If there is, again know that most likely it is not you that has caused this – think of the nail as a potential dagger that has embedded itself into the skin (depending on the nature of the nail). It makes sense that when the nail spicule is removed, there may be a little bleeding. Dress it, care for it and monitor it carefully. For many of our patients, trimming the nail back does feel a bit too much, and they’re uncertain on exactly what to do, how to do it safely, or the right tools to use. Many just don’t want their baby to be in pain. If that’s the case, you are always welcome to bring your little ones in here to see our podiatrists. We’re parents too – so we’ve been there, and we absolutely get it. We’ll get rid of the ingrown nail quickly and easily using our safe, medical podiatric tools – while you entertain your baby and keep them distracted. It’s often a very fast process and parents find it a big relief – and much more enjoyable than trying to manage things at home. Book your appointment by calling us on 09 523 2333 or book online here.