Causes of toenail infection or fingernail infection

Nail infections are most often caused by fungus. Sometimes they can be caused by bacteria or viruses. These germs get into the skin or nail through tiny cracks.

Fingernail infections and toenail infections are more likely to happen if your child bites or chews his fingernails or toenails.

Toenail infections can also happen if your child has an ingrown toenail – this is where the toenail pierces the skin around it. This makes it easier for bacteria to get into the skin.

Symptoms of toenail infection or fingernail infection

If your child has a toenail infection or fingernail infection caused by bacteria or a virus, the skin around your child’s finger or toe will get hot, swollen and red. It’s often tender and might be painful. This is called paronychia.

You might also see pus in the nail bed or cuticle.

Fungal infections of the nail can make the nail thicken, crumble and change colour – usually to yellow or white, but it can also go green or even black. This is called onychomycosis. This often happens slowly, and it’s usually painless.

When to see your doctor about toenail infection or fingernail infection

Take your child to your GP if your child has any of the symptoms described above, especially if there’s pus around your child’s toenail or fingernail, or if your child is in pain.

Treatment for toenail infection or fingernail infection

For mild infections with no pus, clean the affected finger or toe with an antiseptic solution. If your GP has prescribed an antibiotic cream, you should use that.

When there’s pus around the nail, your child will probably need oral antibiotics from your GP. The GP might also want to drain the pus from the nail area.

Try and keep the infected area clean. Your GP might tell you to cover the area with a basic dressing, which you can get from a pharmacy.

Putting something warm on the area might help if your child is in pain. You could try a heat pack.

For fungal nail infections, your GP will prescribe antifungal creams, solutions or tablets.

After you’ve touched or dressed your child’s nail infection, you should always wash your hands thoroughly.