Peeling Nails or Nails Falling Off? Onychomadesis after Hand, Foot, and Mouth in Kids 190

Peeling Nails Nails Falling Off shedding nails Onychomadesis hand foot and mouthFirst, my 6 year old lost a finger nail. I thought maybe he squished it or snagged it on something and just said nothing because he’s a tough boy. The next day, the nurse called me to ask if I knew about his finger. I assumed it was the same one and said yes, but when he got home, I found he was missing yet another nail. The whole thing was just gone. I assumed maybe he had brittle nails for some reason—iron deficiency maybe—and put him on a multi-vitamin. Fast forward about 3 days, my 2 year old’s entire big toe nail just falls off. No blood, no pain, it was just gone, like his nail peeled off. I looked at all three kids, and they all had nails peeling off! Alright, now I was freaked out. What the hell was happening? Was it a fungus? Why were my kid’s nails falling off? Well, now we have to go back in time, to about a month ago, when my entire household had a bad case of hand, foot, and mouth. As it turns out, peeling nails, nail shedding, or nail loss, also known as Onychomadesis, is a little known complication of hand, foot, and mouth typically presenting about 3 to 4 weeks after infection, but may occur anywhere from 1 to 10 weeks after.

What is Onychomadesis and why does it happen?

Onychomadesis is a fancy medical word for the occurrence of peeling nails which may break or fall off completely shedding at the nail bed. You may notice the nail turns white before falling off and there may or may not be a new nail beginning to grow in below it. Onychomadesis is caused by a temporary stop or slowing in nail growth, in this case, the hand, foot, and mouth virus itself interrupts nail growth so as the nail grows up and out, there is a gap, so to speak, in the nail bed, which causes the nail above it to fall off. In minor causes, only slight indention or lines on the nails may be seen. As hand, foot, and mouth primarily attacks the feet and hands, it makes sense that it may also affect the nail bed—this just certainly was not something I had ever heard of and it did not happen the first time my kids had hand, foot, and mouth. It’s suggested that only certain strains of hand, foot, and mouth cause peeling nails, shedding or nails falling off.

What do I do if my kid has peeling nails or nails falling off?

Yeah, there’s some horror movie gross-out with this one, seriously, it is disturbing, but all my kids communicate well, and they all said that it did not hurt. In fact, when I removed the remainder of one nail falling off, my 2 year old didn’t even flinch. So while peeling nails shedding off may look painful and very yucky, it likely isn’t causing your child pain. Your best bet is to simply keep your child’s hands clean and leave them alone. New nails will grow in and rather quickly actually. The condition is not permanent, so if it keeps happening, you should definitely speak with your pediatrician. There are other causes of nail peeling, nails falling off, or nail shedding, but honestly, they are quite uncommon. Even fungal infections tend to only damage nails, not make them just sort of fall off.

Anyway, I will say this whole experience was rather educational. The wonderful thing about kids—and even crappy situations like lost nails in kids—is that you learn something new everyday.

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190 thoughts on “Peeling Nails or Nails Falling Off? Onychomadesis after Hand, Foot, and Mouth in Kids

  • Lois

    Thank you sooo….much my 7 yr olds nails are falling off as well he also had HMFD about a month ago , & just noticed the nails peeling yesterday, drove myself nuts wondering all night was , thought something serious was wrong with him , so happy to see this post appear thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much for this post. My toddler I had HFMD in November and I have just noticed the peeling nails yesterday. Fortunately, only a few nails are affected.

  • Tonia Marie Hunter

    Wow. I googled my son’s symptoms and the picture looked exactly what was happening to him. I was waiting on his doctor office to open lol. And the weird thing is he had HMFV right around thanksgiving and we are 5 weeks out. So glad it isn’t a “serious dangerous infection” as a co-worker told me. Still think I will give them a quick call. Rather be safe than sorry. First time mom here.

    • unwirklich admin

      I apologize, one of our spam filters caught your comment. I’m not sure why. It’s usually pretty accurate so I don’t check the spam bin very often.

      I’m glad this was of help to you, and hope your kiddos fingers are doing better soon.

    • unwirklich admin

      I didn’t cover my boys, but they already had new nails beginning at the base and it wasn’t really like an open sore. If yours are open, I’d try to cover them yes. I know with little kids fingers can be hard to keep covered, so if nothing else just do your best to keep them clean.

  • RandomTeenageGirl

    I’m 14, female and I had HFMD two months ago. I am experiencing the peeling off of my nails right now. When will my nails start to grow back? It has been a month since it started peeling off.

  • Olai

    Hi. Thanks for sharing your experience. I just checked my son’s nails last Sunday (normal_, and checked it again today. I was hysterical when I saw his nails start to peel off, very same as the above photo. He had a slight hand and foot disease (which lasted for two days?). I’m wondering, how long will his nails grow back to normal? I’m kind of worried if he lack some kind of vitamins that he has to intake. Nevertheless, it doesn’t even bother him.

      • Anonymous

        Hello, actually Nails grow an eighth of an inch a week. The skin under the nail gets dried out and shiny. It sort of looks like a nail but actually isn’t. You should see a new nail coming under the cuticle in about 2-3 weeks it will take about 2 months to completely grow back in most cases depending on age.
        Ps… My grandson is losing his now so I Googled to see if it could be from hand-foot and mouth disease which he’s had twice in the last 4 months.
        Thank you for this article 🙂 whew it helps

  • Kasia and Maya

    Hi thank you for sharing your story it really helped me a lot to understand what is going on with my and my daughter’s nails. Few day ago I noticed my nail have started peeling off and I would leave it how it was till I noticed that my 6 months old daughter’s nails are bad as well. My boyfriend suggested it is happening because she is teething and putting her hand to her mouth, but I don’t put my hand to my mouth then why would I have the same problem 🙂 but now I know after reading your article why our nails are peeling off. We both had a HFMV about month ago.
    Thank you!

  • Sally

    My 6 yo daughter;s fingernails have started peeling off; the doc said it was not a fungal infection and to leave it be. Saw this post, and yes, she did have HFMD a couple of months ago (maybe more), so I guess this is the reason. Quick question: Should I cover her peeling fingernails with a bandaid to prevent accidental rip offs? Or just leave it open? Thank you for posting this, am so relieved.

    • unwirklich admin

      I’d do whatever makes her more comfortable. As this is just a nail bed interruption it doesn’t necessarily need covered, but covering it won’t hurt. know my kids are big on bandaids.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for this. Was doing a Google search for this exact issue in both my
    Boys when I found your post. They both had HFM about a month ago!

  • Anonymous

    Hi iam Dr.wael El-gezery a peadiatrices consultant.i used to see many cases of hand mouth foot virus infected children but this year it was an epidemic in egypt.many of them complain of nail shedding later on.thanks for i know why and i can reasure them.

  • Rachel Paine

    Hi. I stumbled upon your post when searching about this side affect of the HFMD. Nasty virus. My two year old is starting the nail peeling process and the nails underneath seem bumpy. I haven’t found anything on whether I should be treating them with supplements or if they will straighten out. I am curious is your children experienced bumpy nails at first but they grew out normal? Thank you!

      • jennifer

        My 6 year old daughter is just experiencing the nail peeling, both finger and toe nails. I am really freaked out, I am so worried. Thanks for this article, let me connected the symptom one month ago, my daughter palms and bottom of feet bursted purple-red spots. I guess it was hand foot mouth disease. Now it sure is HFMd . My daughter’s situation is: top layer is chipping and new layer is growing. The new layer is bumpy. What should I do? Should I check with my daughter’s doctor to take any medication to kill the virus? or just let it recover by just waiting? Thanks!

        • Anonymous

          I took my daughter to pediatrician and dermatologist and both said wait it out. We are now 6mo from contracting virus and are battling an infection in one of her big toes because the last piece of nail ripped off with a sock after a day of walking at Disney and caused an ingrown nail. Horrible virus but other than this hiccup her new nails are straightening out and looking completely normal.

  • echo

    This article helped a lot
    My daughters had hfmd and I noticed a few weeks after that my oldest nails were peeling off it freaked me out

    How long did the peeling last for? Its been like this fornamcouple weeks now and they are starting to fall right off

  • Kath

    I am 56 yr old and after contacting HFMV, all my fingernails and toenails peeled off approx one month after being diagnosed. One week into the virus it went into the lining of my lungs and was so painful I thought I might be having a heart attack! The doc called it pleurisy and said go home and take ibuprofen to reduce the swelling. Ten days later all lung pain was gone.