Dear Dr Nina: 'I give my child lots of calcium but his nails are soft and tear easily'
Q My two-year-old has very soft nails that tear easily. Can you suggest anything? Please don't tell me to give him calcium as he eats cheese and yoghurt and drinks lots of milk.
A Nails reflect our general state of health. Symptoms of nail problems include thickening or thinning and peeling or splitting of the nails. Changes in the nails' colour, shape and surface can be significant. Other problems may include changes on the skin surrounding the nail or pain. Two of the most common causes of brittle nails are prolonged exposure to water or overuse of nail polish. The first may be a habit, the second is unlikely in your case.
Fungal infections are the most common cause of nail infections. These are more common in toenails but may occur in any. Fungal infections may cause thickening, crumbling and splitting of the nails.
In anaemia, the nail may become spoon shaped and seem thinner or more brittle. Anaemia is extremely common in toddlers, so this may be one to consider. Consuming large amounts of milk may make it more difficult to absorb iron, so drinking milk with dinner isn't always the best idea.
Basic nail care is very important to maintain healthy nails. It is unlikely that those who eat well would be deficient and require supplements.
If you feel your daughter is well in every other way, take a multivitamin including iron for a few months. If things don't improve, a check-up with the GP may be in order.