Magic Valley Podiatrists Help Parents Ward Off Ingrown Toenails in Their Kids

At Canyon Foot + Ankle, our podiatrists treat many young patients with ingrown toenails. Because these are both painful and avoidable, we want parents to have the tools to prevent them whenever possible—and to know what treatment options are available when they can’t be avoided.

How Ingrown Toenails Form Ingrown toenails on child's feet

This condition occurs when the edge of the nail starts to grow into the skin, rather than lying on top of it. This happens on the big toe far more often than on other toes. The most noticeable indicators of an ingrown toenail are tenderness or pain around the nail, swelling, redness, and when the area feels warmer than usual.

Because ingrown toenails are so common, people sometimes think they’re not a big deal and fail to get them treated. Unfortunately, this can place your child’s well-being at risk because ingrown toenails can quickly become infected and the infection can ultimately spread to the bone.

Causes and Prevention of Ingrown Toenails 

There are several reasons why ingrown toenails develop. Fortunately, there are also some ways parents can prevent ingrown toenails in their kids. Here’s what many of our patients experience, and what we often suggest. 

Shoe Fit

Because kids’ feet grow so rapidly, parents may be inclined to buy footwear that’s too big to give them space. They also might not notice when shoes are too small, especially if they just bought them for their child a month or two before. 

If your child is wearing shoes that are too small or footwear with pointed tips, their toes may get squeezed together. Conversely, if their shoes are too large, their feet may slide around their toes and repeatedly bump against the toe box. Both of these scenarios can cause ingrown toenails. 

It’s important to buy shoes that are the correct size, even if it means replacing them more often. 

Nail Care

Cutting nails too short or trimming the corners at an angle instead of straight across can make it easier for ingrown nails to form. Always cut them when they’re dry to prevent tearing. Use clippers that are meant for toenails and not fingernails. Active kids should always take extra care cleaning and thoroughly drying their feet to prevent nails from growing into softened skin.


Running around and kicking things can lead to foot trauma, which may result in ingrown toenails. This often occurs with children who are involved in sports like soccer and cross-country running. Stubbed toes are another culprit. 

Heredity and Health

Unfortunately, some people are just more prone to getting ingrown toenails because of genetic issues such as curved nails, also known as pincer nails. They might also develop when someone is trying to manage diabetes, obesity, or health conditions that cause a lot of water retention.

Home Remedies for Ingrown Nails

Though you can find DIY treatments online, this isn’t something we recommend, as they’re often not effective and may prolong your child’s discomfort or even place them at risk for infection or recurring ingrown toenails. It’s especially important to avoid home remedies for ingrown toenails if your child is diabetic or has other medical conditions that cause their feet to heal more slowly. 

If you would like to try to reduce inflammation while you wait for your child’s podiatry appointment, soak their foot in room temperature water and then gently massage the part of the toe where the nail is digging. You can also apply an antibiotic ointment if you notice swelling or infection.

How Canyon Foot + Ankle’s Podiatrists Help Treat Ingrown Toenails

Our doctors at Canyon Foot + Ankle can address the problem during a single quick visit to one of our offices in Burley or Twin Falls. 

  • First, we numb the toe with a local anesthetic.
  • Then, we gently remove just enough of the nail to make it stop digging into the toe. 
  • Some of the pain should subside by the time the anesthetic wears off. 

We also discuss what risk factors could have led to your child’s ingrown toenail and help you create a game plan for preventing future issues. If you bring in the shoes they wear most often, this may also help us confirm if footwear is part of the problem.

After the procedure, children can generally resume normal activities other than gym class, swimming, and sports after 24 hours. We may also recommend aftercare including:

  • Soaking the toe in warm water once or twice per day
  • Keeping the area dry and bandaged
  • Wearing roomy, open-toed shoes to reduce pressure on the toe

Typically, the ingrown nail will be fully healed within a couple of weeks, but the severity of the issue and aftercare make a difference.

What to Do About Recurring Ingrown Nails

Sometimes a second procedure is necessary if a patient has repeated ingrown toenails. By altering the shape of the nail matrix or removing part of it, we can help the nail to become more flat and reduce the chances of further problems. In extreme cases, we can prevent the nail from growing back at all.