Ingrown Fingernails – Everything Parents Need to Know

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Ingrown fingernails are common

Ingrown fingernails occur when the nail grows into the layer of skin around it.

If the nail appears to be pushing into the skin or curving downward, it may be an ingrown nail.

Nails that ingrow can lead to ingrown fingernail swelling and pain.

If they persist, they can lead to an ingrown fingernail infection.


What causes an ingrown fingernail?

Sometimes nails ingrown due to bad luck, but other causes include improper trimming of the nails, nail biting and fungal infections.

What do ingrown fingernails look like?

The signs and symptoms of an ingrown fingernail include:

• Swelling around the nail and cuticle

• Pain

• Redness around the nail (either ingrown fingernail or ingrown toenail)

• The sharp corner of the nail is pushed into the flesh on the sides of the nail

• Ingrown fingernail pus on either side of the nail

• Bleeding

• Skin folding over the nail


When should I call a doctor about an ingrown fingernail?

You should let your healthcare provider know if you have signs of an ingrown fingernail infection such as pus, or severe pain, or if the infection is persistent or worsening despite treatment.

If you have diabetes, there is an increased risk of ingrown fingernail infection, and ingrown toenail infection, and it is best to chat with your doctor.

If you have diabetes, neuropathy or circulation problems, it is best not to treat your ingrown nail at home, but see your healthcare provider instead.


What does an ingrown fingernail infection look like?

Signs of infection include:

• Redness or swelling at the cuticle

• Pus or fluid accumulation

• Increasing pain

• Red streaks on the skin, tracking towards the wrist

• Fever


Can ingrown fingernails heal themselves?


The good news is that ingrown nails most commonly heal themselves with no intervention at all.

To make the process faster and decrease pain, swelling, and the risk of infection, consider the following strategies:


Ingrown fingernail treatment


Ingrown fingernail infection home remedies

One of my favorite ingrown fingernail infection home remedy tricks is to soak the nail.

Dip the affected fingernail in warm water with some added Epson Salts for 15-20 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day. The warm water will decrease ingrown fingernail swelling and will decrease pain.


Another great ingrown fingernail home remedy

Another home remedy is to soak the nail in a vinegar-water mix (four parts water, 1-part vinegar), for 15-20 min a day. Clean off the finger with clean water afterward. This can decrease the risk of ingrown fingernail infection.

Alternatively, you can soak in a hydrogen peroxide solution.

Use 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and mix in a big bowl of water. This soak can prevent infection and can make the skin around the nail softer, so it is easier to lift. Clean fingers well after soaking.

You can use a piece of cotton to put underneath the edge of the nail after soaking. This will lift the ingrown fingernail away from the skin, allowing the nail to grow out and no longer be ingrown. If it is too difficult to insert a piece of cotton under the nail it may be easier to use waxed dental floss.

After soaking the finger, and washing the hands well, gently thread a clean piece of dental floss under the nail’s ingrown edge.

This can help lift the nail slightly off the delicate skin and allow it to grow out more easily.


Another ingrown fingernail treatment

Another ingrown fingernail treatment option includes using tea tree oil, which can prevent ingrown nails and treat them too.

Add a few drops of tea tree oil to lukewarm water and soak as above, 2-3 times a day. Or mix tea tree oil with some coconut or olive oil and massage into the nails.

You can also apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it loosely with a bandage. This will decrease the risk of ingrown fingernail infection.


What is ingrown fingernail surgery?

Rarely is ingrown fingernail surgery required, where part of the nail is clipped to remove the side that is growing into the skin. Your healthcare provider will let you know if this is recommended.


Ingrown fingernail infection prevention

To help prevent infection, we recommend

• Practicing good hand hygiene, scrubbing all surfaces of the hand, fingers, and thumbs for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

• Ensure you scrub beneath long nails

• Dry your hands with a clean towel

• Any breaks in the skin should be kept clean and dry. Applying an antibiotic ointment can reduce the risk of infection.
Practice safe nail trimming

• Trim nails after a shower or bath, as they are easier to trim when they are soft.

• Use clean and sharp tools – disinfect nail clippers and scissors with alcohol at least once a month. Do not use dull or rusty tools.

• Cut the nails straight across, not rounded. The corners should be visible.

• Round the nail edges only slightly – if the nail corners are below the skin level, they are more likely to ingrow.

• Leave your cuticles alone – cuticles protect your nails and trimming them can increase the risk of infection.

Stay safe and wishing you the best of health!



Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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