Weekend Doctor

As families hit the beach this summer, I'd like to share safety tips that will help your feet stay healthy and pain-free. Everyone should keep these items in their beach bag:

  • Antibacterial cream or ointment for cuts or wounds.
  • Bandages that are self-adherent and waterproof.
  • Non-refrigerant cold and compression packs.
  • Good sunscreen or lotion, SPF30 or higher.

A day at the beach doesn't have to mean a day in the emergency room, so keep these tips in mind.

As always, any injury that doesn't resolve within a few days should be examined by a foot and ankle surgeon.

Wear shoes to protect your feet from sea shells, broken glass and other sharp objects. If you wear flip flops, try gel toe spreaders. They wrap around the thong to reduce friction and add comfort in flipflops and sandals.

Wear a diver's sock or shoe to protect your feet in the water.

Don't go in the water if your skin gets cut, since bacteria in oceans and lakes can cause infections. Use antibacterial cream or ointment, followed by a waterproof, self-adherent bandage. To avoid complications, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment within 24 hours.

Jellyfish can sting you in water or on the beach, so be careful! If a jellyfish's tentacles stick to your foot or ankle, remove them, but protect your hands from getting stung. Vinegar, meat tenderizer, baking soda or soaking your foot in a bath can reduce pain and swelling.

Most jellyfish stings heal within a few days. If yours doesn't, seek medical treatment.

Feet get sunburned, too. Apply sunscreen to the tops and bottoms of your feet. Already been sunburned? Use a nourishing lotion with vitamin E and aloe vera to soothe your skin. Sand, sidewalks and paved surfaces get hot in the summer sun. Wear shoes to protect your soles from getting burned, especially if you have diabetes.

Walking, jogging and playing sports on soft, uneven surfaces like sand can lead to arch pain, heel pain, ankle sprains and other injuries. Athletic shoes provide the heel cushioning and arch support that flip flops and sandals lack.

If injuries occur, use rest, ice, compression and elevation to ease pain and swelling.

Keep a travel-size ice compression pack in your beach bag that doesn't require refrigeration. It's a must when on-the-spot cold compression is needed.

Americans with diabetes face serious foot safety risks at the beach. Diabetes causes poor blood circulation and numbness in the feet, meaning they might not feel pain from a cut, puncture wound or burn.

Any type of skin break on a diabetic foot has the potential to get infected and ulcerate if it isn't noticed right away.

Diabetics should always wear shoes to the beach and remove them regularly to check for foreign objects like sand and shells that can cause sores, ulcers or infections.


Vail is with Advanced Footcare Clinic, Findlay. Questions for Blanchard Valley Health System doctors may be sent to [email protected], or to Weekend, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839-0609.