The United States is home to more than 300,000 municipal pools, 40,000 hotel pools, 40,000 health clubs and 1,000 waterparks. Those are all good things – and you deserve to enjoy them without risking the health of your feet.
Just like some diseases spread via airborne transmission (we’ll spare you the obvious example), others undergo waterborne transmission. That means walking barefoot on a wet public floor can expose your feet to numerous communicable fungal, bacterial and viral infections.
Fortunately, the solution to these threats is simple: wear sandals. Although you are advised against walking long distances in them, even the cheapest pair of dollar store flip-flops can spare you from contracting a foot infection. Here are just some of the reasons why you should wear sandals around public pools, showers and locker rooms!
Athlete’s foot (aka tinea pedis) is caused by a number of different fungi including Epidermophyton, Microsporum and Trichophyton. These fungi thrive in warm, dark and damp environments, which is why their infection is named after the people who frequent gym showers and locker rooms.
Athlete’s foot is often accompanied by inflammation, blisters, itching between the toes, and dry, scaly and/or peeling skin. Extreme cases of athlete’s foot can spread to the toenails. The fungi that cause athlete’s foot are long-lived, and are unlikely to go away on their own. It is typically treated with antifungal products such as Lotrimin AF and Lamisil AT, which clear up symptoms in about two to four weeks.
Staph infection is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. They are normally present on the skin of healthy people, where they pose no threat. But when they enter the skin or infect the blood, staph bacteria can cause symptoms ranging from small rashes to fatal sepsis.
When it is present on the feet, a staph infection commonly causes boils, impetigo, folliculitis and/or cellulitis. Blisters, sores, and swollen, irritated skin are often the first noticeable symptoms. As is usually the case with bacterial skin infections, staph is treated with topical antibiotic preparations such as Bactroban.
Staph is not just a waterborne infection. It is transmissible through any shared surface, which means even the smallest cut on your skin can become infected if it comes into contact with the bacteria. In addition to keeping your feet protected at all times, take care to wipe down any chairs or gym equipment before using them.
Molluscum contagiosum is the name of both a virus and the infection it causes. Although it is transmissible through sexual contact, it is also possible to contract Molluscum by sharing a towel or walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces.
The Molluscum virus can infect any area of the skin (although it rarely appears on the soles of the feet), and typically appears as small, raised and discolored lesions. As is the case with many poxviruses, Molluscum usually goes away on its own. Topical treatments such as podophyllotoxin cream, potassium hydroxide, and iodine solution and salicylic acid are prescribed in some persistent cases.
Warts are caused by exposure to human papillomavirus, or HPV. The virus is transmissible by skin-to-skin contact, which is why it affects so many: one out of 10 people, or 33% of all children and teenagers. HPV is also transmissible indirectly. It excels at shedding off of infected skin, and lives for a very long time once it has detached from its host. Although waterborne HPV transmission has not yet been proven to exist, coming into contact with a wet surface contaminated by the virus can lead to infection.
HPV infection can cause plantar warts: small, coarse and protruding growths that commonly take hold on the heels and balls of the feet. Plantar warts can be sensitive, and frequently cause pain while standing or walking. A wide range of treatments are used to treat warts, including chemocautery, cryosurgery and excision. Twin Cities Foot & Ankle Clinic offers Swift wart removal treatment, in which weak, precisely directed pulses of electromagnetic radiation are used to destroy the wart’s root.
If you are suffering from any skin infection on your feet, seeking immediate foot care from a podiatrist is the best way to get the right treatment and make certain the condition isn’t serious. If you have noticed growths or discoloration on your feet – or if you would like to learn more about Swift wart removal for any part of your skin – then we welcome you to contact us today to schedule a consultation at our podiatric clinic in Golden Valley, MN!