White Spots on Your Child's Nail - Should You Be Worried?

White Spots on Your Child’s Nail – Should You Be Worried?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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A child’s fingernails can reveal a lot about their overall health. Pink and lustrous nails are usually indicative of good health. Discolouration, lines and ridges, brittle nails, or white spots on the nails can be a sign of an underlying medical issue. The emergence of white lines or spots on a child’s nail is also called leukonychia. In most cases, it is a harmless condition that is fairly prevalent in children. The spots vanish in due course of time as the nail grows out.

In this article, we have explained the reason behind white marks on the nails of children, its treatment and prevention tips. Let’s read!

What White Spots on Your Child’s Nails Mean?

White spots or white dots on nails of a child can imply a zinc deficiency, which is easily curable. Sometimes it corresponds with low iron, low magnesium and calcium levels. At times it can be a mark of a past injury rendered at the base of the nail, which starts showing as a white spot when the nails grow a bit. Irrespective of the cause, the white spots are usually temporary and likely to disappear when the nail grows out completely, which roughly takes eight to nine months. However, instances, where recurrent white spots may appear on most of the nails, can be indicative of some viral or fungal infection or thyroid hormone disorders or chronic problems linked to the liver, kidney, or heart.

Types of Leukonychia

Leukonychia can be of the following types:

1. Total Leukonychia

Such a condition is usually genetic. The whole nail may change to fully white.

2. Partial Leukonychia

In this condition, whitening of some parts of the nail occurs. Partial leukonychia can have three variations:

  • Leukonychia striata: Horizontal white streaks appear parallel to the base of the nail (lunula). This condition is also called Mees’ Lines or Transverse Leukonychia.
  • Leukonychia punctata: Tiny white spots become visible on the nail. It is the most common form of leukonychia. It is also referred to as “true” leukonychia.
  • Longitudinal leukonychia: Longitudinal white lines emerge beneath the nail plate. Longitudinal leukonychia is quite rare.

3. Apparent Leukonychia

This condition involves white discolouration of nails due to alterations to the nail bed instead of the nail plate. Terry’s nails, Muehrcke’s nails, half and half nails are variations of apparent leukonychia.

What Causes White Spots (Leukonychia)?

Some of the likely causes of white spots on nails can be:

1. Nail Injury

White spots can be a result of some minor injury or trauma inflicted on the nail matrix. For example, banging of nails against a desk, fingers shutting in a door, bending of a nail, or incorrectly clipping a nail may cause leukonychia. The damage may have happened weeks before, but nails tend to grow very slowly. Therefore, the injury may become visible when the nails grow in the form of a white spot.

2. Allergic Reaction

Another cause of white spots can be a mild allergy due to exposure of nails to certain chemicals as found in nail polish, removers, and hardeners.

3. Infection

The emergence of white spots on nails can be a fungal infection. If left untreated, it can grow and slowly spread to the bed of the nail. The nail may turn flaky and brittle.

Infection on a child's nail

4. Mineral Deficiency

White spots on nails may become noticeable in case of a mild deficiency of certain minerals like zinc, caused by some illness or variations in hormone levels.

5. Possible Side Effect

Leukonychia can also surface as a plausible side effect of certain medications or treatments like systemic chemotherapy.

6. Other Causes

Some possible additional causes can be:

Symptoms of White Spots on Nails

White spots can manifest in various ways. The cause may dictate the form and extent. For example, a nail injury may show as a big white dot, while an allergic reaction can produce several dots across the nail. Some of the common symptoms can be:

  • Small measured spots
  • Larger distinct individual spots
  • Lines (longitudinal or horizontal) across the nail

Nails with white spots

Do These White Spots Occur Only Due to a Calcium Deficiency?

Most people think calcium deficiency causes white spots on nails. But many medical researchers like to challenge this notion. They say that both the occurrences are not connected. White spots are most commonly a result of an old injury to the nail matrix, which starts becoming prominent as the nail grows out. Alternatively, a fungal infection, an allergy to nail products or a food item can also be probable triggers. Sometimes the condition can be genetic. In very rare instances it can point to some deficiency which more often than not is related to low levels of iron, zinc or biotin.

Treatments for White Spots

The treatment for white lines on nails toddler may differ depending on their cause. A doctor, to make a diagnosis, may recommend a nail biopsy or mycology wherein nail tissues or clippings are studied. He may also propose a blood test to establish the likely presence of an underlying disease. There are certain treatments that may be suggested, depending on the cause.

  • In case the cause is a fungal infection, your doctor may prescribe oral antifungal medicines and topical antifungal creams.
  • In case it is the result of an allergy your doctor may suggest discontinuation of all nail products and give some anti-allergic medication.
  • Most injuries to a nail heals with time. With the growth of the nail, the wound will move upwards, and you can clip off the damaged part.
  • Cosmetic treatments are available if discolouration of nails is an issue.

Home Remedies to Get Rid of White Spots/Line on Children Nails

Some useful home remedies that may help to get rid of white patches on nails of children are mentioned below. However, discontinue these if there is any side effect like itching or the appearance of rashes.

1. Tea Tree Oil

First, add olive oil to tea tree oil to make a mixture. Once this is done, apply the same to the affected nail. Continuous use of this mixture may produce positive results.

2. Baking Soda

You can prepare a mixture combining half a cup of baking soda, some Epsom salt, one-fourth of a cup of peroxide, and four cups of warm water. Dip your child’s nails in this solution for some time regularly for reduction of white spots.

3. Orange Oil

Applying orange oil to the discoloured nails using a dropper or some cotton may prove beneficial in doing away with the white spots.

Orange oil

4. White Vinegar

You can soak your child’s nail in a concoction of white vinegar and lukewarm water for about ten minutes every day to eliminate the white spots.

5. Lemon Slices

Rubbing lemon slices on your child’s fingernails may help in eradicating the white spots.

How to Prevent White Spots on the Nails?

In case of inevitable conditions such as genetics, it may not be possible to prevent white spots on the nails. However, there are certain measures you can take to reduce the risk of white spots appearing on the nails, or preventing them in case of conditions such as injury or a deficiency.

1. Avoiding Contact With Chemicals or Irritants

Avoid exposing your child to irritants or chemicals such as nail polish removers, etc., as they can cause white spots or leukonychia to occur.

2. Keeping the Nails Hydrated

Keeping your nails hydrated ensures that white spots do not occur due to dryness. Moisturise your child’s nails as soon as he steps out of the shower and make it a habit, so he can continue the same as he grows up.

3. Eat Foods Rich in Zinc

Regularly eat foods that have a high zinc content, such as nuts, dairy, eggs, meat, etc. This will reduce the risk of a zinc deficiency, and subsequently, leukonychia.

When to Consult Paediatrician?

You may like to consult a paediatrician in the following cases:

  • If all the nails turn completely white
  • If several white spots become evident on all the nails
  • If parallel discoloured lines appear on all the nails
  • If your child’s nail become part brown and part white

The occasional white spots or leukonychia on your child’s nails may not be a worrisome situation. Usually, it doesn’t require any special treatment. In case a child frequently gets white spots on all his nails, the issue may need further investigation to rule out any serious complications.


1. Nail abnormalities; medlineplus.gov; https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003247.htm

2. Matilde Iorizzo, Michela Starace, Marcel C. Paschcorresponding; Leukonychia: What Can White Nails Tell Us?; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8809498/

3. White nail; dermnetnz.org; https://dermnetnz.org/topics/white-nail

4. Nail Changes; nationwidechildrens.org; https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/health-wellness-and-safety-resources/helping-hands/nail-changes

5. What Causes White Spots on Fingernails?; wonderopolis.org; https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-causes-white-spots-on-fingernails

Also Read:

Nail Biting in Children
Dark Circles Under Eyes in Kids
Tips to Correct Bad Habits in Children

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