First Aid Treatment and Management for Ingrown Toenails

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An ingrown toenail occurs when the side of the nail grows down into the skin, instead of up. Although it can occur on any toe, it commonly affects the big toe. An ingrown toenail usually results to pain, redness and swelling of the affected toe. In some cases, it progresses to an infection. Ingrown toenails is generally treated and managed at home, except in cases of severe or spreading pain where medical help may be needed.

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails may result from a poor hygienic practices and improper footwear. These may result to adding pressure on the toes. The following are known to cause ingrown toenails in an individual:

  • Improperly trimmed toenails
    • Very shortly trimmed  nails
    • Rounded edges that may curl downwards instead of straight across
    • Physical inability and poor eyesight to reach the toes
    • Thick or large nails
    • Picking at the edges of nails
  • Poorly fitting shoes
    • Shoes that are too tight or too loose
    • For athletes, even slightly tight shoes may cause this problem
  • Foot or toe deformities
  • Foot or toe injuries
  • Nail infection
  • Stubbing the toe
  • Tendency of nail to grow downward (natural shape)

Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails

The following are the most common symptoms of ingrown toenails:

  • Pain and tenderness in the affected toe that may be present in one or both sides
  • Redness and swelling around the toenail
  • Tissue infection surrounding the toenail

First Aid Treatment and Management for Ingrown Toenails

Treatment and Management for Ingrown Toenails
Treatment and Management for Ingrown Toenails

Simple home care treatment can effectively manage ingrown toenails, relieving of pain and reducing chances of infection. For cases of nerve damage, diabetics and infection, seek medical help as extra medications and precautions may be necessary. To treat and manage an ingrown nail at home:

  • Immerse the foot in warm water three to four times a day. Otherwise, keep the toes dry.
  • Slightly massage the inflamed skin surrounding the toenail.
  • Put a small, freshbit of cotton under the nail. If this is too big, try using dental floss. Wet the cotton/ dental floss with water or antiseptic. Change this daily.
  • If necessary, trim the toenail but do this once only. To cut the nails easier:
    • Soak the foot in warm water. This will soften the toenail.
    • Make sure that the trimmer to be used is clean and sharp. Dirty trimmers may lead to infections.
    • Trim the toenails straight across. Avoid cutting the nails too short. Do not attempt to cut the edges or the side. Also, do not attempt to remove the ingrown portion by self.
  • Apply topical antibiotic ointment to reduce chances of infection. The affected toe may also be bandaged.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
  • Wear open toed shoes to avoid adding pressure to the affected toe.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice or treatment. This information given should not be used for self-diagnosis of the possible conditions. Seek medical attention when needed. To learn more about how to treat and manage ingrown toenails, enrol in First Aid Courses with workplace approved training.


Ingrown toenails (2011). National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus. Retrieved September 9, 2013, from

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