Summer Foot Safety

Don't let common foot problems plague your kids' tootsies -- get quick fixes with these doctor-backed tips.

Thanks to flip-flops, sandy sneakers, and infections that lurk at public pools, kids are particularly likely to have foot problems during the summer. You can treat most of them at home, but call your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

    Problem: Blister

    Cause: Friction makes the outer layer of skin separate from the lower layers.

    Treatment: Keep it clean and bandaged, and apply antibiotic ointment if it ruptures. "You can use a sterilized needle to carefully poke a hole in the side of a blister to release the fluid," says Donza Rogers, MD, a pediatrician at Children's Medical Center, in Dallas.

    Prevention: Make sure your child wears socks with her sneakers. Put petroleum jelly or moleskin on problem spots to reduce friction.

      Problem: Athlete's Foot

      Cause: Scaly, itchy skin or painful cracks between toes are caused by a fungus that likes dark or wet environments.

      Treatment: Thoroughly wash and dry feet, and apply an over-the-counter athlete's-foot spray. Call your pediatrician if symptoms don't improve in three to four days.

      Prevention: Don't let your child share shoes. Frequently air out his shoes and insoles, and have him wear sandals at public pools and in locker rooms.

        Problem: Ingrown Toenails

        Cause: If the big toenail hasn't been cut straight across, it can dig into the skin.

        Treatment: Ease pain and swelling by soaking the foot in warm water three to four times a day for 20 to 30 minutes. "You can stick a small piece of rolled cotton or gauze under the edge of the nail after the soak to promote proper growth,? says Dr. Rogers.

        Prevention: Trim nails straight across so they don't extend past the tip of his toe.

          Problem: Plantar Warts

          Cause: These hard, painful growths on the sole are caused by a strain of the human papillomavirus (different from sexually transmitted ones).

          Treatment: Start with over-the-counter wart remedies; however, plantar warts are often resistant and need prescription medicine. Sometimes, a dermatologist or podiatrist will burn, cut, or laser off the wart.

          Prevention: Don't let your child share shoes, and make sure he wears sandals in public locker rooms and at pools.

            Problem: Stubbed Toe

            Cause: Young children can bump a toe when they're learning to walk or if they're barefoot or wearing sandals.

            Treatment: Apply an ice pack. Call your doctor if your child can't move his toe, the nail is loose or detached, or there's blood under more than one-third of his nail.

            Prevention: Try to cushion or remove low-lying hard edges around your home and keep high-traffic areas clear.

              Copyright © 2007. Reprinted with permission from the August 2007 issue of Parents magazine.