Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Surgery for ingrowing toenail (child)

3-minute read

What is an ingrowing toenail?

An ingrowing toenail happens when the toenail grows into the skin around it. The skin can get damaged, causing infection and pain.

The most common cause of an ingrowing toenail is not cutting your child’s toenails properly, by cutting them too short or down the sides of the toenail.

Wearing shoes that do not have enough width to fit the toes in their natural position can also cause an ingrowing toenail.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your child should no longer have infection and pain.

Illustration showing an ingrown toenail.
An ingrown toenail.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Try to cut your child’s toenails straight across and do not leave sharp edges. Your child should wear shoes that comfortably fit the shape of their feet.

Keep your child’s feet clean.

Your GP or podiatrist may be able to push the skin away from the ingrowing toenail or cut away the piece of toenail that has grown into the skin. Antibiotics can be used to treat infection but this will not treat the ingrowing toenail.

What does the operation involve?

The operation usually takes about 20 minutes and may involve one or more of the following techniques.

  • Nail avulsion — Removing the whole toenail. The toenail will regrow.
  • Wedge excision — Removing part of the toenail where it is growing into the skin, along with the area of tissue in the corner that the toenail grows from. The toenail will regrow but will be narrower than before.
  • Nail-bed ablation — Removing part of the toenail or the whole toenail and then applying a chemical to the area of tissue that the toenail grows from. Surgery or electrocautery can also be used. This will prevent the toenail from growing back in the area that was treated.
  • Zadek’s procedure — Removing the whole toenail and then cutting away the area of tissue that the toenail grows from. This will prevent the toenail from growing back.

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication

Specific complications of this operation

  • infection in the underlying bone
  • infection of the surgical site

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of the skin

How soon will my child recover?

After a short while they will be able to go home.

Your child should not play sports or do strenuous exercise for 2 weeks. Keep the dressing dry.

Your doctor will tell you when your child can return to normal activities.

If the ingrowing toenail happens again, your child may need another operation.


Surgery to remove an ingrowing toenail can take away infection and pain.


The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright ©

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.