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Ask Dr. Marla: How do I keep my toddler’s toenails healthy?



My son stubbed his toe really badly and the nail turned purple and fell off. Gross! Any tips for how to help it heal and other toenail hygiene?


With the trauma and resultant bruise you describe, there is a good chance that the nail will become detached and perhaps separate from its nail bed. We sometimes see this happening in runners and other athletes who do not have enough room in the toe box of the shoe. If the nail begins to lift, it cannot reattach and a new nail will eventually grow in. That process can take anywhere from six to 18 months!

My podiatrist colleagues tell me that you can either file or trim a detached part of the nail. In addition you might want to protect the nail by covering it. Soaking might also be helpful as well as applying a topical antibiotic.

It is always important to monitor for signs of infection such as swelling, redness, warmth or tenderness. It would be a good idea to seek advice from your physician.

Toenail Tips

  • Wear properly fitted shoes.
  • Trim toenails regularly (at least every two weeks).
  • Make sure the nail clippers are clean.
  • Cut nails straight across and file down sharp edges.

– from The Institute for Preventive Foot Health


Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, December 2014.

a man carrying two children

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