Your desire to know how to prevent an ingrown toenail goes up significantly if you’ve had one. A nail growing into your skin is surprisingly painful—especially if you let it go for too long and it gets infected. To keep nails growing painlessly, as they should, learn how to cut your toenails correctly and when to get yourself to a doctor.
Cut Your Nails Right
Use these simple guidelines.
1. Clip nails after you bathe because softer nails are easier to cut.
2. Use toenail clippers because they have a longer handle than fingernail clippers so you’re less likely to lose your grip on them. Nail nippers are also a good choice because they cut across a smaller area; a longer clip increases your chances of cutting yourself.
3. In a series of small cuts, clip nails straight across.
4. Trim them to be about the same length as the tip of your toe. If you trim your toenails too short, your shoes can press on them and push the nail to grow into your skin.
5. Don’t dig in the corners.
6. Use a nail file to gently round off corners, but don’t cut in the corners to curve the nail with the shape of your toe.
Once you’ve trimmed your nails correctly, help reduce risk of ingrown nails by not wearing shoes that are too small. Also wear protective footwear if you play sports to keep from damaging the nail area, which can cause problems.
Don’t cut your own nails if you have diabetes or circulation problems. Let your podiatrist do it. Do the same thing if you take certain medications like an anticoagulant or steroids.
Tenderly Treat an Ingrown Nail
You’ll recognize an ingrown toenail from the pain on one or both sides, the swelling and the redness. Big toenails are the most commonly affected, but a nail on any toe can become ingrown.
Be good to yourself by knowing when to see a doctor and what you can do safely at home.
Get thee to a doctor. If you put off getting treatment from your doctor when you need it, you’re risking a more painful treatment. Save yourself from that and see the doctor in any of these cases:
• Your toe hurts severely.
• The redness is spreading.
• Pus develops or increasing drainage.
What you can do at home. Don’t be too aggressive trying to treat your nail because you can make it worse (like cause a blood infection!) and a lot more painful. Here’s what you can do safely:
• To ease the pain, take an over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium as appropriate
• Soak your foot in warm salt water for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day to lessen swelling and soreness.
• Use a piece of waxed dental floss to gently lift the nail up away from the nail bed. Gently wedge a tiny bit of cotton under it if you can.
• Pat your foot dry it, apply an over-the-counter antiseptic or antibiotic cream and bandage.
• Wear open-toed shoes until your toe isn’t sore.
• You may want to take the bandage off your toe while you sleep to let your toe get air.
• If your toe isn’t better in about 3 days, call your doctor.
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American Podiatric Medical Association: “Ingrown Toenails.”
Mayo Clinic: “Ingrown Toenails: Prevention, Symptoms, Treatment.”
The College of Podiatry: “Ingrowing Toenails”
Cleveland Clinic: “Ingrown Toenails”