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As she walked into the living room, Billy was sitting on the sofa. His stocking and shoe lay on the floor. He stared carefully at his big toe. Then he looked up at his mother and said "I think I have an ingrown toenail. It has hurt since last week, but I didn't want you to take me to the doctor. I was hoping it would just disappear."
Growing toenails can be painful. But the idea of going to the doctor seems to bother some children even more. Mix a teenager's growing independence with a little fear of a doctor's office, and it's no wonder they're waiting to ask for help.
There are many home remedies for ingrown toenails. Some work and others do not. Some are even the same as a pediatrician would recommend. Once you understand the causes and various home treatments for ingrown toenails, you can decide which ones are best.
An ingrown toenail begins when any part of the toenail gets stuck in the skin around the nail. The skin then becomes irritated and inflamed. If the nail is sharp, the skin can actually be punctured or cut by the jagged corners of the nail. If the toenail punctures the skin and causes an open wound, bacteria and infection can develop. The toe becomes red, swollen and very painful.
The most common home remedy for ingrown toenails is to soak the foot in warm Epsom salts. Soaking the foot in this way can soften the skin around the nail. This can make the area less inflamed and less painful. In some cases, it may be enough to let the ingrown nail free.
Some people think that Epsom salt soaking can cure an ingrown toenail. It is true that a high concentration of Epsom salts can kill bacteria that cause infection. However, Epsom salts can also kill the fibroblast cells that heal wounds. If there is an open wound or infection, Epsom salt can attenuate healing.
Petroleum jelly applied to an ingrown nail is another common home treatment. Patients have said they believe Vaseline will soften the nail and let it slip out of the ingrown nail. While Vaseline softens the skin, it also captures a lot of moisture. This can cause the skin to become too moist and break. If the skin breaks down, you have a much higher chance of bacteria coming in and causing an infected ingrown toenail.
Another common cure is to fill cotton under the nail. The idea is that you may be able to hold the nail up from the skin long enough to allow it to soothe. But this is usually backfires. The cotton actually creates more pressure on the skin under the toenail. Cotton also contains moisture that can encourage an infection.
Another myth about ingrown toenails is that you can cut a V-shaped nail piece out of the middle of the toenail. The idea is that the gap you cut in the middle slowly moves together and pulls in the corners of the nails to release the ingrown nail at the side of the toe. Unfortunately, this is impossible. The nail plate itself is very rigid and is fixed in small grooves to prevent this from happening. Cutting a "V" in the nail did not help.
Some people can actually release the ingrown nail, just by cutting out the portion of toenail that is trapped in the skin. Pediatricians usually warn against trying to do this themselves at home because it can make it worse, but sometimes it fixes ingrown toenail. But you have to be very careful to remove the entire nail corner that is stuck.
Often people will try to remove the nail and only get a part of it. They get relief, just because there is less pressure down the nail track. However, the bit that remains is a sharp small disc called a spicule.
So the toe feels better for a few weeks, but the spike gets longer as the nail grows out. If you then trip over a curb or bump your toe against a table leg. And whammo ... that little spicule sticks right into the skin in the corner of the nail case. The ingrown toenail returns with revenge.
Massaging the nail plate after showering or bathing can be the surest way to try to work with the ingrown toenail-free. Just don't try if it's painful. You should also stop if it is drainage. Drainage can mean infection.
The biggest risk with an in-weight toenail is that it is infected. And every toenail infection needs a doctor. Intravenous toenail infections are more common in people with diabetes. Infections are also common in ingrown toenails that have worsened for several days. One misconception is that you can simply cure an ingrown toenail by taking antibiotic pills. The simple truth is that you have to remove the annoying piece of nail and cure the infection as well.
One of the best-kept secret cures is a GP for podiatry. A pediatrician is a pediatrician and a true teething expert. They are experts who are trained to cure ingrown toenails with the least discomfort. Many pediatricians offer home visits to treat toenail problems. That way, neither mom nor little Billy has to worry about going to the doctor's office.