Keeping Your Feet Healthy This Summer
Certain foot issues tend to be worse during the hot, humid summers in Shanghai, including:
- Fissures (small cracks in the skin on the heels and toes), exacerbated by wearing open shoes in the dusty, polluted environment of Shanghai
- Fungus (toenail and “athlete’s foot”): nail fungus can appear as thickening or discoloration of the nail (if you aren’t sure have it evaluated, since normal aging and other issues can appear similar), fungus on the skin can appear as hives and/or peeling, red, itchy skin
- Veruccas (plantar warts on the feet), especially in children (easily spread around when kids are barefoot in common areas such as swimming pools and camps)
- Foot pain/injury, often related to constant flip flop wear
Tips for keeping your feet healthy during Shanghai’s hot humid summers:
- Practice good foot hygiene, by regularly cleaning the feet and drying them thoroughly (especially the area between the toes).
- Powder can cut down on moisture and tea tree oil has natural antibacterial properties to help keep infections at bay.
- Keep nails short and well-maintained (unfortunately, nail salons often pass infections between customers so be cautious).
- Keep feet exfoliated and moisturized even in humid weather (helps cut down on fissures). At the same time, overzealous exfoliation during pedicures or foot treatments sometimes worsens problems, so keep an eye on what your technician is doing.
- Always wear clean shower shoes/flip flops in common areas.
- Wear a sock or hose made of a breathable fabric, to protect the foot and absorb moisture. When you get home, take off shoes and sit them in the sun to thoroughly dry. Rotate shoes (try to switch daily and don’t repeat the shoes for a few days) and let your feet breathe in open shoes occasionally.
- Save flip flops for occasional wear and not for use during high levels of activity. They offer no support, which is especially problematic for kids’ growing, flexible feet. The ankle can easily rotate and cause overpronated feet. This can not only cause injury, but can have long term effects on proper foot and bone development. They also expose feet to a lot of debris and dirt.
Treatment for Foot Concerns
Catching fungus early is important, because then it can usually be treated with topical creams and liquids (nail paints or sprays). The treatment will depend on the patient’s health condition, other medications, location and length of time the fungus has been present. There are several products with different active ingredients and some are available only in certain countries (if you have experienced fungus before, it may be wise to bring some of the medication from your home country).
It is important to use nail paints continually because if you stop, even for a short period, the new nail that has grown will become infected by the fungus. Antifungal paints are not suitable if you are pregnant. Success rates are not very high (about 40% for amorolfine, 22% for tioconazole and 12% for ciclopirox), but because they treat only affected areas they’re worthwhile to try as a first line of defense.
More serious infections require a long course of oral drugs, which can have serious risks (liver and kidney damage in particular). If you are concerned with the treatment plan your practitioner has recommended, you may wish to seek a second opinion. But, don’t delay in seeking help or starting treatment, as fungus can be quite persistent.
We carefully cut the skin at an angle to get rid of the excessively dry skin and promote natural healing. Someone prone to fissures may need regular maintenance and should keep the feet clean, exfoliated and moisturized.
We can offer a range of treatment options, which is especially important for children who may be sensitive to certain medications. Veruccas are often treated with cryotherapy (a cold/chemical burn) but there are other choices that don’t involve such harsh chemicals.
Overpronated feet, injuries, etc.:
We can assess any current injury or pain and develop a treatment plan, both short and long-term. Our interdisciplinary team at Body & Soul can offer various (often less invasive) solutions such as acupuncture to reduce pain and swelling and orthotics for structural issues. If you notice unusual wear on children’s shoes or have a child who seems to “have two left feet” (frequent falls/balance issues or clumsiness), you should get an evaluation as there may be structural issues that could be treated now to prevent long-term problems.