Jun 5, 2017

Dr. Gellner: Kids and their gross habits, nail-biting is a huge one and can lead to serious issues. I'll discuss nail-biting and the ways to help your child on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kid Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Yes, we've all done it at one point or another, usually when a nail breaks or a cuticle is snagging. But some kids and adults are perpetual nail-biters. It's actually most common in teens, with almost half of kids biting their nails. But when can it become a problem?

Well, it can lead to a bacterial infection called paronychia where the nail bed becomes infected, red, painful, and pus comes out. That requires antibiotics, and sometimes your child's doctor will even need to drain the infection. Your child could also get warts around their nail, having bleeding a lot, or even permanent nail damage.

Kids will often bite their nails because they're stressed out or they're actually transitioning from thumb-sucking, there is something wrong with the nail, like it's broken, or they're picking up the habit from seeing other kids doing it.

Cutting the nails regularly helps. Trying to figure out why your child is biting, like if they're stressed, helps too. Some kids do it when they're bored, so keep them busy. Gentle reminders are good too. Just don't punish your child if they do it. Tell them why it's not a good habit, and help them make the better choice.

Most nail-biters eventually stop the habit, but it's difficult to say when. Every person is different. More than 75% of those who bite their nails at adolescence will stop by the time they're in their mid-30s. Yes, you heard that right. So don't get too stressed out about it. And if your child's nails do look damaged or infected, take them to see their pediatrician.

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