Sunny days, warm breezes, outdoor sports and long weekends at the beach – all the fun of summer can sure put a spring in your step. Unfortunately, some summer situations can also slow you down unless you take precautions to prevent injury to your feet.
In summer, your feet may be exposed to risks that don’t occur in winter, such as cuts and abrasions from walking barefoot on the beach where broken shells or sharp debris may lurk, burns from hot sand or too much sun, and pain or blisters caused by ill-fitting flip-flops or sandals that lack support.
“Knowing how to prevent and treat summer-specific foot problems can help ensure your summer fun stays on track this year,” says Joseph Caporusso, DPM, president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).”
APMA offers some advice:
At the beach
* You may enjoy the sensation of sand between your toes, but avoid walking barefoot. Not only does going barefoot expose your feet to the risk of sunburn, plantar warts, athlete’s foot, ring worm and other infections, bare feet are at risk for cuts, puncture wounds and other injuries, too. Always wear sturdy flip-flops or sandals when walking in sand, to help prevent injury.
* Apply sunscreen all over your feet, especially the tops and fronts of ankles to prevent sunburn. If you do get a burn, clean the area and apply burn ointment if the area is red. If the burn is bad enough to blister, seek treatment from today’s podiatrist.
In the water
* Jellyfish stings are a possibility at many beaches. Wearing swim shoes into the water can help protect your feet if you step on a jellyfish. If you get stung, leave the water immediately and watch for signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling in the mouth, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Seek immediate medical attention for these symptoms. For less serious stings, use seawater to wash the affected area, which will help deactivate the stinging cells. Applying vinegar for about 30 minutes can help with pain, but shaving cream, soap, or a paste of sand/mud and seawater can be substituted in a pinch.
* Remember to reapply sunscreen after you’ve spent time in the water.
On the go
* If you experience a cut or puncture on your feet, clean your hands with antibacterial soap before you clean the injury. Clean the wound and apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding, if necessary. Once the bleeding is stopped, apply antibiotic ointment to aid in healing and prevent infection. Cover the wound with a clean bandage and change it a few times a day to ensure the bandage – and the injury beneath it – stays clean.
* Flip-flops with soles that bend or twist freely offer no support or stability. Choose a flip-flop style that bends only at the ball of the foot and provides arch support, which cushions the foot and improves stability. Styles with high-quality soft leather can help prevent blisters. Toes and heels should never hang off the edge of a flip-flop. Trash last year’s flip-flops if they’re old, worn, cracked or frayed. And reserve your flip-flop wearing for beach trips, around the pool or in public places; never wear them for doing yard work, playing sports or taking long walks.
* Finally, always seek medical attention for significant injury, burns or if you experience persistent foot pain. Foot pain is not normal, and a podiatrist can help diagnose and treat foot injuries. Visit www.apma.org to locate a podiatrist in your area.