If your baby's nails are a strange color, thick, brittle, powdery or the skin around his nails seems red and puffy, he may have a nail infection. Many nail infections are caused by fungi. Although we tend to imagine fungal infections appearing on the toenails (because feet are often moist and warm, ideal conditions for the growth of fungi), fingernails also can develop fungal infections.
Prevention of Fingernail Infections
Allowing nails to become ingrown--or even trimming them excessively and causing seemingly minor injury--often can make your baby prone to developing fungal nail infections.
It's important to choose a trimming method that's right for both parent and baby. If you tend to cut your baby's nails with clippers, use a nail file, and if you can't use a nail file without rubbing your baby's finger raw, use safety nail clippers. If you do happen to accidentally clip or file your baby's skin, put pressure on the area to discontinue bleeding, then clean with soap and water or an antibacterial cream. Never tear nails to trim them; this can lead to trimming them too low and increasing the risk of infection.
Prevention of Toenail Infections
Allowing your baby's hands or feet to stay wet for long periods (perhaps in a wading pool) also increases her chance of a fungal infection, so when she is ready to dry off, be sure to pat her dry with a towel.
You can also reduce your baby's chances of getting fungal toenail infections by not putting her in socks or footed jammies of synthetic material, and by putting only natural-fiber booties or leather shoes on her feet. Also be sure to change your baby's socks at least once a day.
Symptoms of Nail Infections
Common symptoms of a nail infection include:
--Yellow or white spots on the nails that slowly spread. In some cases, the nail may appear gray, green, brown or opaque. --Nails that split, crack, are brittle or thick. --Bits of skin and nail found underneath the nail. --Red, often itchy or painful, skin around the nail. --A soft, powdery nail surface.
Symptoms of Skin Infections Under the Nail
When skin beneath the nail is infected, expect to see:
--Yellowness in the nail bed. --Bits of skin and nail beneath the nail. --Discoloration of the entire nail. --Nails that are brittle and break easily. --Eventual separation of the nail from the skin.
Treatment should be obtained for your baby or the infection may spread, worsen and even lead to permanently damaged fingernails. Treatment usually consists of an anti-fungal cream. In some cases, an oral antibiotic may be given in liquid form.