Kids seem to get a lot of ingrown toenails. I’m not sure exactly why, if it’s because they are picking more at their nails or if parents are trimming them too often or not often enough, but whatever the reason red, swollen, tender areas next to the nail happen frequently.
When the skin around a nail gets irritated (usually from picking at the area by the child) the nail can often grow underneath the area increasing the irritation. Sometimes these swollen areas get infected and pus starts to spontaneously ooze out, but sometimes the area is red and swollen and inflamed, but not in need of antibiotics. Sometimes the nail itself is the culprit in starting the process and burrows into the skin next to the nail as it grows, causing some swelling and redness.
Either way, when the skin around a nail looks red and swollen but isn’t oozing, the first step is to stop picking at the area! Next, soak the hand or foot daily in hot water and let the nail grow out. Don’t trim the nail or skin, just let the natural process of growth and healing decrease the inflammation. If the area is oozing stuff, though, it may be infected and seeing the doctor makes sense.
It is rare for children to need to see a specialist about ingrown nails. By letting the nails stay a bit longer than the edge of the skin beside the nail itself, soaking the area if it gets irritated and not picking at it, often the area will get less inflamed and no other treatment will be needed. If the area keeps getting infected despite these measures, then a visit to the surgeon may be needed.