10 common ingrown toenail remedies

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1. Soak in warm, soapy water

Soaking the affected foot may help reduce swelling and ease the pain. You can soak your foot in warm, soapy water for up to 20 minutes at a time. Castile soap is a good option. Adding Epsom salts to the water may bring additional relief.

2. Soak in apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a folk remedy for almost everything these days, including ingrown toenails. It’s believed to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving abilities, although scientific evidence is limited.

To try this remedy, prepare a basin of warm water combined with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Soak the affected foot for up to 20 minutes daily. Dry your foot thoroughly after soaking.

3. Pack the area with dental floss or cotton

Some experts recommend tucking small bits of cotton or waxed dental floss under the edge of an ingrown toenail to encourage proper nail growth. Not every medical group agrees.

According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, placing cotton under your nail may increase pain and allow harmful bacteria to thrive. Soaking the cotton or floss in alcohol before application may help reduce this risk.

4. Apply antiseptic ointment

Using over-the-counter antiseptic ointment or cream can promote healing and help reduce the risk of infection. Apply the ointment to the affected toenail following the manufacturer’s instructions, usually up to three times daily.

These ointments can include:

  • neomycin (Neosporin)
  • bacitracin/polymyxin B (Polysporin)
  • mupirocin (Bactroban)

Be sure to bandage the toenail after application.

5. Wear comfortable shoes and socks

Shoes and socks that are too tight can crowd your toes. Improper footwear is a leading cause of ingrown toenails. To help prevent an ingrown toenail from developing or worsening, wear shoes and socks or hosiery that fit but still leave ample space in the toe bed. During the healing process, avoid shoes or wear sandals as much as possible to limit pressure on your toenails.

6. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help relieve ingrown toenail pain. Side effects are unusual unless you take more than the daily recommended amount of 2 325 milligram (mg) tablets every 4 to 6 hours. Do not exceed 10 tablets in 24 hours and don’t take it with alcohol.

If swelling is present, ibuprofen (Advil) may be a better option because it relieves both pain and swelling. Some common side effects of ibuprofen include abdominal pain, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

Take all over-the-counter pain relievers as directed by the manufacturer or a doctor.

7. Use a toe protector

A toe protector provides a cushioning barrier for ingrown toenails. Toe protectors are available as rings that fit around the affected area or as a covering for the entire toe. Some brands of toe protectors, such as Dr. Scholl’s, come with a medicated gel to help soften toenails for easy trimming. Use the treatment as directed until the ingrown toenail is gone.

8. Try a toe brace

Toe braces are thin composite devices that hold the toe in place and shield the skin from as a new nail grows back. They help treat and prevent ingrown toenails. You can find toe braces online and in some pharmacies.

9. See your doctor about oral antibiotics

Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics for a severe ingrown toenail infection that doesn’t respond to other remedies and treatments. Oral antibiotics help reduce pain and swelling while also fighting infection.

Some signs of infection may include:

  • increased redness
  • throbbing pain
  • increased swelling
  • pus
  • warmth in the affected toe and its surrounding area
  • foul odor

Some antibiotics used to treat infected ingrown toenails are ampicillin (Omnipen), amoxicillin (Amoxil, Moxatag), and vancomycin (Vancocin).

10. Consider nail removal

If an ingrown toenail doesn’t improve with home remedies, partial or full removal of the nail may be necessary. Using a local anesthetic, a doctor may remove part of the nail’s border, the underlying nail bed, or part of the middle growth plate.

In severe, recurring cases, the doctor may recommend removing the entire ingrown nail. This is the last resort and a potentially painful solution that may increase your risk of infection. It also increases the risk of a misshapen toenail as it grows back.

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