Infected Toenail

Archived Q&A and Reviews

12-year-old's infected toenail

June 2004

My son (aged 12) has a toe that has been infected for several months now. The infection seems to center on the nail of his big toe, but the whole toe is red. The doctor prescribed antibiotics, which so far we have avoided, and also suggested removing the toenail. I've tried tea tree oil, which usually works magic, but in this case it doesn't seem to be working. Does anyone have any ideas for what may help? anon

Apparently you're very concerned about your son's taking antibiotics? It seems worth a try before toe surgery. My son had this condition twice. He soaked every day, or at least that was our intention -- it's hard to get a kid to sit for long with his foot in hot water. We gave up with that, and he had toe surgery both times, and the infection cleared right up once the toe could drain. The nail does grow back. Good luck. mg
I recommend a good podiatrist for your son. My 15 yr. old son has had 2 troublesome toenails and the pediatrician also prescribed useless antibiotics (which is over-use and we try to avoid). We then found a great Podiatrist who fixed him in minutes with minor removal of part of the nail, and then follow- up soaking in hot water and salt. Both toes, all better. Toenails growing back normally. Have no idea why this happened. Although, I'm told that if it happens in one big toe, chances are high it will occur in the other. so watch out! happy feet
While I respect your decision to eschew antibiotics, I would caution you against letting a toe infection linger. Infections can spread quickly and cause many other problems. I have had a slew of toe infections lately. One was so severe I could only walk in open toed shoes for weeks. Even with antibiotics it took a while for everything to clear up. I recommend you go for it. And of course also trying to isolate the source of the infection, which sounds quite elusive in your case. Soaking in epsom salts is supposed to be a benefit, but I found it didn't do too much for mine. However, you could try that route as well. In your son's case, I'd recommend several times a day. Good luck. Amy
I hope you are not saying that you have let your son's toe go infected for several months, and not even tried one course of the antibiotics? I do not believe in the overuse of antibiotics, but after a couple of weeks, if the alternative treatments do not work, you are putting your son and his immune system at great risk by not treating the infection. An infection in the toe might not seem too risky, however, left unchecked, the infection could spread to his blood, and then to his heart. This is very serious and deadly. Also, if his immune system is ''distracted'' by fighting off a chronic infection in his toe, this leaves the potential for other ''opportunistic infections'' to develop, unchecked, other places in his body. It is not the use of antibiotics, but the overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics that has caused the problems with antibiotics. Please talk with your pediatrician about this. Kathleen
You wrote: ''The doctor prescribed antibiotics, which so far we have avoided, and also suggested removing the toenail. .. Does anyone have any ideas for what may help?'' Yes. Take the antibiotics. If it's a bacterial infection, that's really all that's going to help. Tea tree oil can help with nail fungus, but it can't get to an infection under the nail. I am about to lose my toenail to a similar infection, and probably wouldn't be in this position if I'd started antibiotics earlier. It's no small deal to lose a toenail. It can grow back in strangely, and you can then be prone to ingrowns. I wish my doc had prescribed antibiotics earler. there goes sandal season
My teenage son had a persistent infected toenail which we treated with topical antibiotics for several months but still it was bright red and swollen. I think much of the problem was that his feet were encased all day in big plastic track shoes, he didn't bathe often enough, he picked at it and irritated it, and we both forget to clean it and keep neosporin on it. At any rate it got bad enough that it hurt to walk on. So we went to a podiatrist, who removed the toenail and gave him a bunch of antobiotics, at which point it started getting better finally. This hurt a LOT according to my poor hyper-sensitive son (it was the numbing shot that actually hurt the most though.) G.