4 Gross Things That Can Happen When You Go Barefoot
Sinking your bare feet into warm, sun-kissed sand can be a stress buster, but for one Canadian couple, going without shoes on a recent beach vacation turned out to be disastrous.
Katie Stephens, of Windsor, Ontario, posted a note and cringeworthy photos on her Facebook page after she and her boyfriend returned from a Dominican Republic resort trip with a hookworm infection.
“Please be careful when in the sand and wear shoes! My boyfriend and I recently got back from Punta Cana to discover that we both have larva migrans,” Stephens warned in her post.
Here are a few more details about the condition they brought home from their beach trip, plus four more disgusting — and in some cases, life-threatening — ailments that can happen when you go shoeless.Cutaneous larva migrans
What is it? “It’s a parasitic infection caused by the larval stages of cat or dog hookworms,” says Eric Brown, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at The University of Texas School of Public Health, Center for Infectious Diseases.
How you get it: “It can happen to anybody,” says Brown, but primarily occurs in areas of the world where sanitation is poor. You can pick it up if you go barefoot on sand or soil where hookworm-infected dogs and cats have left feces.
Symptoms: Itching, swelling, linear raised tracks under the skin, pain with walking.
Treatment: Most cases resolve on their own but treatment with albendazole can also help, according to the CDC.MRSA
What is it? Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that’s resistant to many antibiotics.
How you get it: You can get community-associated MRSA when you’re walking around barefoot in the gym or a locker room, through a cut in the skin.
Symptoms: A small lesion on the skin that becomes red, irritated, swollen, warm, painful, or turns into a puss-filled blister. “If you have a lesion that starts out small and gets worse fast, don’t wait. Go straight to the urgent care or emergency room,” warns Brown. MRSA can be life-threatening.
Treatment: Certain antibiotics can kill MRSA. Some patients may need surgery to drain a MRSA abscess. Warning: Don’t try to drain your own at home.Fungal infection
What is it? You can get a fungal infection on your nails (onychomycosis) or the skin of your feet (tinea pedis), better known as athlete's foot. If left untreated, it can look pretty ugly.
How you get it: Walking barefoot anywhere fungal spores are on the ground, including public gyms, swimming pools, spas, college dorms, and public bathrooms. “Fungus thrives in a moist environment. Someone infected may just walk barefoot and if they have fungus, they deposit fungal spores on the surface where you can get it,” says Robert K. Lee, DPM, Chief of Podiatric Foot and Ankle Surgery at UCLA Medical Center, in Santa Monica.
Symptoms: Nails can become thickened, whitish or yellow-brown, brittle, crumbly, ragged, distorted in shape, and foul smelling. On the skin, you can get a scaly red rash, itching, and sometimes blisters or ulcers.
Treatment: Over-the-counter topical antifungal creams to start. Most creams for athlete’s foot respond well, but the success rate for toenail fungus is only 15%. “We then move on to oral medications. But the problem with them is that there’s a small risk of liver damage,” Lee says. Some doctors also prescribe a medicated nail polish, called ciclopirox (Penlac) for toe fungus, say Mayo Clinic experts.Tungiasis
What is it? A parasitic disease caused by the female sand fly or chigoe flea — sometimes called a jigger — burrowing into the skin. “They primarily infect you in the feet or heals and toe nails. It’s a nasty, nasty infection,” says Brown. It occurs in poorer areas of the world, including Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa.
How you get it: Walking around barefoot in the sand where this type of flea lives.
Symptoms: Itching, irritation, inflammation, ulcers, lesions, pain with walking.
Treatment: Surgical extraction of burrowed sand fleas and topical application of dimeticone. Health experts also recommend prevention using insect repellent in risky areas.Want some general tips for keeping your feet safe?
UCLA's Lee recommends taking preventive steps, including wearing a good shoe or sandal — something with a firm sole and arch support — to protect your feet. Flip flops don’t offer much protection, he notes. Use a good insect repellent, too, when walking on the beach or in the outdoors, and always sit on a towel or blanket to avoid parasites.