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Ester Marsh column: Going barefoot can increase risk of foot infections

With summer in full force, pools, beaches, splash pads and locker/changing rooms are in full use. Do you were shoes or flip flops when using these areas?

Personally, I am not one to go barefoot a lot. I don’t like it and it hurts my feet and legs when going without shoes for too long. Did you know that going barefoot in public places can make you a target for fungus, bacteria or even hookworms when places are contaminated? I know people who love to go barefoot and they are resistant to many of these foot issues. But, most people have dealt with or know someone who has had toe fungus, plantar warts (on feet), athlete’s foot, or maybe even a staph infection through a cut or open wound.

A warm, moist environment is a breeding ground for fungi, germs and bacteria. Being barefoot in these areas makes you the perfect target for a fungal attack. One of the most common ones is athlete’s foot (tinea pedis). I personally have had it going barefoot in a pool area and it took a while to get rid of it. Athlete’s foot is a fungi which looks like dry, scaly and cracked skin typically between the toes.

In her younger years, my sister had a huge challenge with plantar warts. They are not only painful at the bottom of your feet, they are highly contagious to other feet in a warm and moist environment. How about toe fungus? Your toe nails turn yellow and crusty and even can be painful when untreated. Fungi loves the warm and damp environment.

So what can you do to prevent it?

• Wear shoes at all times in public places, including slides or flip flops when taking a shower.

• Bandage any cuts or scrapes or open sores.

• Pre treat your feet — it kills any stray fungal cells you might have picked up

• Use moisture-wicking socks and shoes when exercising.

• Do not share shoes or towels.

With so many people out and about spreading their bacteria and fungi, your chance of getting one of these is pretty high if you do not prepare yourself. After my bout of athlete’s foot, you do not see me barefoot in public places such as locker rooms and pool areas, sauna and steam rooms. Especially if you have toe fungus, plantar warts or athlete’s foot, you should wear footwear not only to protect yourself for other issues but to stop the spreading the germs and bacteria to others especially in an environment where its warm and moist.

I am wearing my slides and my flip flops in public places, how about you?

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley Family YMCA

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