Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"What should I do about my ingrown toenail?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat should I do about my ingrown toenail?


I have an infected ingrown toenail. It is extremely painful, slightly swollen and leaking blood and pus. The skin around my toe is red. I have a job where I work long hours and am constantly on my feet which really isn't helping! I have been soaking my foot in epsom salts and applying tea tree oil. I made an appointment today with a podiatrist but it isn't for 6 days. I am freaked out because I have been reading horror stories on the internet! Is it okay to wait 6 days to treat this? What can I do in the meantime?


I'm sorry to hear about your infect, ingrown toenail. This can be, and sounds like, a very bad problem that can certainly get worse if allowed to continue on. Firstly, you really need to be seen as soon as possible. If you can't get in to see a podiatrist within the next day or so, I'd even recommend going to the emergency room to get this evaluated. In worse case scenarios, the infection can be bad enough so as to require partial (if not complete) toe amputation. In the mean time, soaks can be helpful, but I'm not sure that I would recommend Epsom salts and tea tree oil, particularly the latter. Putting any creams, oils, or salves on top of an infection almost always worsens the infection, since the substance that your'e applying isn't sterile. Soaks are helpful for cleaning and circulating fluid through the infected area, but you should use diluted hibeclens or betadine in warm water. To be honest, what you need is quick attention to this toe in the form of surgery. This will entail removal of the ingrown portion of the nail, debridement of the underlying infection, and probably antibiotics and daily soaks after surgery. Again, given your ongoing infection, I would strongly urge you to try to get in to see a podiatrist or orthopaedic surgeon foot and ankle specialist as soon as possible.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.