This past weekend, I was enjoying Memorial Day at the pool with my family, when my 10-year old came over to me, dripping wet and clearly upset. The bottom of his toes hurt, and he didn't know why.
As a podiatrist dad, I quickly wrapped him in a towel and sat him down beside me. I examined his foot and saw five red dots, one on each of his toe. The diagnosis was clear--he walked on the rough bottom of the pool while diving for toys, and had scraped the skin from his toes. Thankfully, my son will be just fine--all we had to do was cover up his feet and get him some dinner--but it got me thinking. If I wasn't protecting my own child's feet properly at the pool, I bet a bunch of my readers aren't either. So I'm hoping we can change that with this blog post.
How to Protect Kids Feet at the Pool
Scraped toes are just one of the many foot hazards facing kids at the pool. But other issues could be lurking as well.
Foot cramps are a common complaint after a long day of swimming. This can happen when you use the muscles in your feet too much, or when you stay out in the hot sun all day and get dehydrated. To avoid foot cramps, make sure your kids drink lots of water before, during and after your swim. And if foot cramps are a problem, just carefully rub the foot and help them strecth out the muscles. The pain and spasms should resolve quickly.
Bacteria and Fungal Infections are super common in wet, public areas like swimming pools. Microbes flourish on the wet and warm surfaces, and if your child steps directly on them, it can lead to a fungal infection like Athlete's foot or fungal toenails. To avoid this problem, make sure your kids' feet are always coveered--when beside the pool, in flip flops or crocs, and even in the pool, you may want to consider water shoes (they would certainly have helped my son this weekend!)
Wrinkly Toes: if your child's toes look like little prunes when they hop out of the pool, don't worry--it's just the skins natural response to staying under water for a long time. But the wrinkles aren't a result of your skin absorbing too much water, it's actually your body's inherited response to being wet. You see, back in the caveperson days, wrinkly skin would help our ancestors stay on top of stones so they wouldn't slip and fall when wading through streams to catch their dinners. So, while wrinkly toes aren't bad for you, they can be uncomfortable for kids. One solution is, of course, to pull your child out of the water at frequent intervals. But if that expectation is completely unlikely, you can try putting a nice coating of Vaseline on their feet before they first jump in the water. Drinking lots of water may also help delay this reaction.
Slips and falls are frequent occurrences around swimming pools: the slick pool deck material becomes treacherous when covered in water from dripping, splashing kids. Since the pool deck is also extremely hard, a slip and fall can result in serious injuries like sprains or fractures, so it's crucial to take measures to avoid this type of accident. For starters, never allow kids to run by the pool. Look for handrails whenever possible and, when selecting pool shoes, try to find options with a little grip on the sole. And, before heading to the pool, scan the deck for potential hazards like noodles or goggles that could cause problems.
When we think about kids and pool safety, we always worry about drowning (as we should) but it's important to take care of their feet as well. So if you follow my advice by the pool this summer, you'll hopefully avoid sad endings to fund days like my poor son had this week.