It’s the summer and many people are spending time at the beach, in the sea, or at the pool, but engaging in these activities can also be a foot health hazard. It is common to go to the pool or the beach and submerge the feet in the water for hours at a time. Keeping the feet wet for long periods of time can be uncomfortable and can lead to a number of issues such as injury from falls on slippery floors, athlete’s foot, wrinkly toes, cramps, sores and blisters and more. However, most water-time wet foot problems can be avoided with a little planning.
Sores and blisters: Wetness can increase the friction between the foot, socks or any beach or pool footwear which are normally worn without socks. If not taken care of, this can lead to sores and blisters on your feet.
Athlete’s foot: Swimming pool areas are a fungus and bacteria haven. Constantly wet and warm surfaces allow the tiny microbes to grow, both around the pool and in the locker room and shower areas. Wet skin is not as strong as dry skin and does not provide the best barrier to protect the skin from invading microbes.
Foot cramping: Foot cramping is one of the most common complaints of active swimmers, and the pesky muscle contractions can happen without warning. Most cramps that are experienced while swimming occur when a muscle is fatigued and overused, or if the swimmer is dehydrated or has an electrolyte imbalance. This can easily occur if you are at the pool or beach for long hours in the sun.
Wrinkly toes: Wrinkly toes is due to skin pruning. It is a natural response to your feet being submerged in water for long periods of time. We used to think this was a result of the skin being waterlogged, but scientists have since discovered that the pruning is not due to water passing through the skin but because it helped early humans grip onto wet stones and other surfaces while gathering food in rivers and streams.
Falls: Slips and falls happen frequently around swimming pools and can lead to minor injuries like scrapes, bruises and broken bones, or major injuries like concussions and even death. Persons who may be unsteady on their feet such as elderly persons may be at greater risk for fall as well as children who love to run around the pool or at the beach.
Prevent wet feet
To prevent blisters and sores, decrease friction on the feet. Consider wearing waterproof pool socks that are available in sports stores. If you plan to spend a lot of time poolside, you may want to consider purchasing latex socks like Speedo Latex Socks, Saqua Waterproof Socks and Aqua Guard Swimming Socks. Not only do they keep feet clean and dry, but these water socks also provide traction to prevent slips and falls, as well as protect against bacterial and fungal infections.
To avoid toe and foot cramps while at the pool or beach, drink plenty of water and eat healthy, nutritious food before and during your time at the pool/beach. You should also stretch before swimming and be aware of your current physical activity level, trying not to push yourself too hard too soon. Do not go out too far into the sea or in the deep end of the pool if you have had cramps or are concerned you may have a muscle cramp. It may be best to come out of the water if you are experiencing a cramp(s).
To help protect your feet against athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, plantar warts and other communicable diseases, it’s wise to always wear a pair of waterproof flip flops in public pool areas rather than go barefoot. Keeping your feet dry can help prevent such infections. Also, protect your feet from cuts, scratches and open wounds which may assist the micro-organism in entering the skin. It may be wise to avoid the pool or beach if you have an open wound.
Having wrinkly fingers and toes is not a dangerous condition, but if it annoys you, try applying a barrier lotion like Vaseline or Eucerin to your hands and feet before jumping in the pool or sea. Other ways to help include: limiting the amount of time you’re in the water, staying hydrated and avoiding extreme temperatures (like steamy hot tubs and cold, late-night dips).
You can prevent slipping on wet surfaces by walking slowly and cautiously (no running!) while barefooted, and by using handrails whenever possible. Elderly persons may also have walking aids such as canes or walkers that should be used when walking, even at the pool. Make sure the rubber contact at the end of walking aids are there and in good condition. Also, be aware of your surroundings to avoid tripping on hazards like slippers, pool toys and floaty tubes.
• For more information or to see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, telephone 325-2996; or Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Albury Lane, telephone 394-5820; or email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.apma.org.