Ingrown nails are a common problem, especially for the toes, and often a result of poorly fitting footwear or poor trimming technique. Ingrown nails damage surrounding tissue and lead to infection, inflammation and pain. Baking soda is an old folk remedy that displays antiseptic properties and is safe to use on a variety of skin infections. Consult with your doctor or a podiatrist if your ingrown nail becomes infected, because removal of a portion of the nail may be necessary.
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An ingrown toenail, also known as onychocryptosis, is a common condition that involves your nail growing towards and cutting into the surrounding nail bed tissue, or paronychium. The paronychium becomes injured, which causes a localized microbial infection, inflammation and considerable tenderness, according to the book “General and Systematic Pathology.” The infectious agent is often bacterial, but can also include fungi. Other common symptoms include redness, light bleeding, formation of a crusty granuloma, drainage of puss and extreme sensitivity to pressure.
Ingrown nails occur in the nails of the hands and feet, but they occur most often with your toenails, according to “Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine.” The main cause of an ingrown toenail is unsuitable footwear, especially shoes with not enough room in the toe-box area. Improper cutting technique on any nail may cause it to grow towards the paronychium and pierce it if the edge of the nail is sufficiently sharp. Other contributing factors for the development of ingrown nails include trauma, diseases, deformities, nutritional deficiencies and genetics.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is used in a variety of cooking and health applications. Baking soda displays a strong ability to neutralize acid, which alkalizes tissue and deters microbial growth, according to the book “Biochemical Pathways.” As such, baking soda is a natural sanitizer and can be used as a safe antiseptic, both externally on nails and even internally for mouth infections. According to Dr. Brent Bauer M.D., author of the “Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine,” baking soda is more effective against fungi than bacteria because fungus, yeast and molds are more sensitive to changes in pH, which is a measurement of acidity.
To reduce your risk of ingrown nails, wear shoes that fit properly and allow plenty of room for your toes. Further, try not to cut your nails too short or at uneven angles. Before applying baking soda to your fingernails or toenails, you should moisten it with some water and make it into a paste. Gently pack the bicarbonate paste into the injured tissue and cover the infected finger or toe with some sanitary gauze or bandage. If the infection persists or worsens, consult immediately with your doctor. In some cases, ingrown nails need to be removed and the infection treated with antibiotics.