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How to Care for an Ingrown Toenail (Until You Can Get Help)

Updated on November 14, 2015

What is an Ingrown Toenail?

An Ingrown Toenail is when your toenail, usually on the big toe, grows to quickly and starts piercing through the skin around the toe. Normally, this condition only occurs around the sides of the toe, but in extremely bad foot care situations, the top of the nail can grow so long that it begins to curl around and pierce through the toe that way.

Either way, ingrown toenails can become extremely painful over time and make it difficult to walk or even put on a shoe. By that point, your toe might become red and swollen and has the potential to develop a rather nasty infection, making it even more important to take care of as early as possible.

Thankfully, your likely to notice your ingrown toenail earlier on and the sting of that kind of pain will hopefully get you in to see a professional to get it taken care of right away.

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How do Ingrown Toenails form?

Ingrown toenails can develop for a variety of reasons, but the most common are: Heredity, poor health or injury. If someone in your family has or had ingrown toenails, it's extremely likely that you will one day develop them as well. That being said, you could be the lone wolf and develop them through improper diet and exercise habits. If you have diabetes type 1 or 2, you're also more likely to develop ingrown toenails and should look into early prevention to stay as far away from infections as possible.

Last but not least, you can develop ingrown toenails through injury to any of your toes. Again, this is more common on the big toe than others, but it can happen to any toe. If you drop something on your toe, stub it just the right way or for any other reason lose part or all of your toenail, it can grow back incorrectly and turn into an ingrown toenail.

Ingrown Toenail Symptoms

The initial stages of an ingrown toenail might only be noticeable with subtle symptoms of a stinging pain around your toenail. At first, it might just seem like nothing to worry about, and might only ever bother you ever 3 or 4 days. This stage can last a long time depending on how quickly your toenails grow and how often you even notice the pain.

The next stage is when you start to notice that your toe hurts almost every day, especially if you push around the edges of your nail. Sadly, most folks still don't do much about it, other than maybe googling ingrown toenails, and they allow themselves to reach the third stage where it hurts to put their foot into a shoe and they have to be careful about applying too much pressure to the foot with the ingrown toenail. At this point, you'll start to see visible symptoms such as inflammation, redness, persistent moderate pain that feels like you've been cut and possibly small amounts of blood around the sides of the toenail.

The two final stages are: CRAP THIS HURTS BAD and HOLY CRAP THIS THING IS INFECTED! The first is when you start to look for immediate ingrown toenail remedies or at least some serious relief, and then you contemplate going to an ER. The latter stage is when you've allow your ingrown toenail to go on so long that you have an infection. At that point, you might recognize symptoms such as fever, nausea, intense toe pain, super inflamed skin, swelling, redness, pus or more bleeding.


Caring for your Ingrown Toenail until you can get help

Honestly, the best thing you can do for your painful toe is to leave it alone until you can get professional help. Sadly, that's a lot easier said then done, especially if you've ignored the pain to the point to which it can no longer be ignored. So with that in mind, let's go over some methods of intermediary care for your ingrown toenail, until you can get real help.

1. DO NOT cut or trim your toenail in anyway. Trust me, unless you want to go through a lot more pain than you're going through now, then you do not want to get those clippers anywhere near your toes right now. It's very tempting, and if you're like me, you'll have that ultra stubborn "I can do this myself" attitude, and you'll want to try. That is the WRONG attitude to embody right now. If you decide to ignore me, you're likely to end up with a toenail that still hurts, is more deeply lodged in your sensitive skin and is extremely difficult to get out.

2. Use some healing herbs to desensitize your toe and cut down on some of the inflammation. Herbs like Plantain, Pineapple Weed, Yarrow and Daisy can be very helpful in getting you through another day or two until you can see a professional. And as a bonus, your toenail will be more pliable and easy to trim down later. To make use of any of these herbs, just turn them into a quick poultice and then apply them to your toe as needed.

3. Ice and plenty of rest for your afflicted foot are going to help a lot. The less you need to put your foot in and out of shoes and socks (which are potential source of infection), the less you're going to irritate your wound. Keeping your foot up and ice down, will also help relieve some of the inflammation, which will be relieving in it's own way.

4. Keep your toes as clean as possible. While this might not do a lot to relieve pain, it will definitely help you avoid more pain that would be associated with an infection.

5. Organic apple cider vinegar can help arrest any potential infections, whether you think you have one already or not. Place a few small caps full of vinegar into a large bowl of water and soak your foot in it for at least 20 minutes. This will help keep your toes clean and take care of any foot odor.

Pedicures: The Remedy for Ingrown Toenails

This remedy might seem obvious to some, but it was completely off my radar when I dealt with my first ingrown toenail. I assumed the only way to that bugger out, was to dig it out myself or to go and see a doctor who would probably drive a needle into my toe to get the nail out and then use a financial syringe to bleed me dry. Though after chatting with a few friends, I was pointed in the direction of a local pedicure specialist, whom I was told would have zero problems getting my nasty toe nail taken care of.

Of course, I was nervous, but then instantly amazed at how ready the pedicurist was to just get the job done. The first one was the worst, because I did everything I've just suggested not to do, and so that ingrown toenail was in the worst condition. Though it was over fast, only cost me $40 and showed me a great way to easily take care of ingrown toenails.

So when you find you've gotten to the point that ingrown toenail is bothersome enough that you can't ignore it, find yourself a local pedicure specialist who can help you get it taken care of and show you how to care for your toesies in between pedicures.

3 Extra Methods for Ingrown Toenail Removal

How to get rid of an ingrown toenail at home

Now, if you're bound and determined to take care of your ingrown toenail at home and not go to see a pedicurist or a doctor, then I'd rather support you and help you get it right, then to follow the traditional route of just telling you not to do it.

That being said, let's start out with some important warnings and precautions:

  1. Trying to take care of your ingrown toenail by yourself, could result in further injury or infection.
  2. Using pedicure tools that are not properly sanitized, could result in infection.
  3. If at any point you find yourself bleeding heavily or you have a fever, nausea or your toe is changing colors, seek professional medical help immediately.

Okay, first and foremost, you want to make sure you're toenail, hands and tools are clean and sanitized. That means water, soap, lather, rinse and repeat, then use a germicide.

Next, you'll want to soak your foot in an epsom salt bath for at least 20 minutes, until your toes are soft and pliable. This will also make the toenail softer, which will help you get it trimmed properly.

Next, you want to use a Toenail Lifter, Toenail File and Toenail Clippers. For this, it's best to enlist the help of a family member, partner or really supportive friend. Having their help will cut down on the chances of further injury or not fully getting the toenail out of the skin properly.

Regardless of whether you have help or not, your object is to lift the toenail from the side by working the lifter in through the top and into the side. Then you want to use the file to shave down the nail, so that it is neither sharp nor wide enough to cut into the skin. If you need to, you can then trim the side of the toenail further, with specialized clippers. Just be careful not to trim it too far, or your toenail will grow right back into the side of your nail bed.

Once you've gotten the ingrown portion taken care of, it's important to trim the rest of the toenail in a way that will discourage it from growing to wide again, and encourage it to follow normal growth patterns. To do this, you want to trim your toenail straight across the top, leaving a few millimeters of nail, enough that you can see the corners of your toenail above the skin. I've been told to think of it like a straight line instead of a cresent moon. Most folks trim their nails like a cresent, whereas with the potential for ingrown toenails, you want to trim them in a straight line, so that the toenail is less likely to dig itself back into your skin.

Proper Toenail Care to Avoid Ingrown Toenails

The best and most significant information I can leave you with in this hub, is how to maintain your toenails from here on out, so that you don't get ingrown toenails again. Thankfully, it's easy and can become a part of your normal foot care routines.

  1. Keep your toes clean, consume a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise.
  2. Trim your toenails straight across and not in a cresent shape.
  3. Use that special nail file to keep the sides of your toes from growing too wide.
  4. Don't wear shoes that are too tight.

It's also a good idea to plan to see a pedicure professional or a podiatrist every 3 to 6 months, especially if you find your not fantastic at maintaining your toenails.

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