Although it affects a relatively small area of the body, an ingrown toenail can cause a great deal of pain. Unchecked, it can lead to infection. Reports suggest the potential for serious harm is even more likely in someone with diabetes, and a doctor should be consulted in such cases. Toenail fungus and ingrown toenails are like evil friends; they like to hang out together. Often if you have one condition, you also have the other.
In its beginning stages, an ingrown toenail will sometimes respond well to home treatments and folk remedies.
Warm water soak
Soak your foot in very warm water several times a day. Some sites recommend putting Epsom salts or sea salts in the water. Some doctors claim this is not necessary. After soaking, dry the foot well and bath the sore area in hydrogen peroxide. Once the toenail is softened, it can be gently lifted with tweezers and small piece of cotton inserted beneath it to hold the toenail away from the skin. Instead of cotton, a piece of dental floss could be used. Be sure to sterilize the tweezers after use to prevent the spread of any possible fungus.
Cider vinegar and Listerine®soak
Recommended for nail fungus, a cider vinegar soak is thought to treat the problem if used faithfully over a period of time. To make a vinegar soak, use one part vinegar to two parts water. Soak your foot for at least 20 minutes per day. The other soakings can be with plain water as stated above. To ramp up the effectiveness of an apple cider vinegar soak, Listerine® mouthwash can be added. One website suggests combining equal parts of the original gold-colored Listerine with cider vinegar, and not diluting the mixture with water. This mixture can be kept in a covered container and reused several times before it must be discarded. It is thought by adding Listerine to the vinegar, the healing process is accelerated.
Anecdotal reports indicate that Vicks VapoRub® applied to the toenail several times a day can eventually defeat a nail fungus. It may also provide some relief for the pain of ingrown toenails simultaneously since the two conditions seem to often appear together. Vicks does not promote their product as a treatment for this condition, however.
Trimming toenails properly
Toenails should be trimmed straight across to avoid causing an ingrown nail. Never round the toenail’s edges.
However, it is suggested that trimming the nail with a slight V shape in the center will help prevent it from turning down into the flesh of the toe along the sides. This suggestion is certainly worth trying.
Vitamin E oil
Rubbing vitamin E oil onto the ingrown toenail and surrounding skin is reported to do some good. If nothing else, it might serve to soften the nail and soothe the tender flesh.
Keep feet clean and dry
Not only will good hygiene aid in the healing process, but it can help prevent the conditions that encourage the growth of nail fungus and ingrown toenails. In the shower or bath, wash feet with a soapy brush, such as a back brush or nail brush, and rinse well. Dry thoroughly with a towel. To be extra diligent, feet can be further dried for a minute or so with a hair dryer on low heat, aiming the air stream between the toes and under the nails. Once feet are completely dry, spray them with rubbing alcohol. Then allow your feet to air dry. Put on clean socks.
To make your own refreshing foot spray, you can pour a few drops of scented oil, such as peppermint, into a spray bottle and fill it the rest of the way with rubbing alcohol. Or you can use hydrogen peroxide instead of alcohol.
Don’t wear tight shoes
It is not very tempting to wear tight shoes with an ingrown toenail as this would be extremely uncomfortable. So, this advice is more for prevention. Wearing tight fitting socks or shoes can put pressure onto the nails causing them to grow incorrectly.
Over the counter remedies
Dr. Scholl’s makes treatments both for ingrown toenail relief and to address nail fungus issues, and strips which can help lift the nail to encourage proper growth. There are also files made especially for ingrown toenails. Tender Nail is a liquid that offers temporary relief from the pain of an ingrown toenail.
Home remedies can effectively treat and relieve ingrown toenails in many cases. If home treatment is not working or the toe becomes inflamed, seek medical treatment. None of these remedies is intended to substitute for medical advice. In the case of diabetes, always consult a doctor before trying any self-treatment.