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Keep Your Kids Safe This Summer: Expert Weighs in on Proper Care

Caring for your children’s foot and ankle injuries can help them stay on their feet longer

The summer months are an active time for families and children. Summer sports and playing outside put children at increased risk for injuries—both small and large. But there are a few ways parents can keep their children safe and on their feet this summer.

Because of their active nature, children can be more susceptible to foot and ankle pain from lack of protection and overuse injuries or ailments, including puncture wounds, plantar warts, sunburns and ankle sprains.
“During the summer months, I see an increase in puncture wounds from running barefoot, sunburns from lack of protection and ankle sprains from sports,” said Michael Ambroziak, DPM, FACFAS, a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. “Paying attention to symptoms and behavior, practicing proper at-home care and bringing children to see a foot and ankle surgeon can ensure proper treatment and get them back to activities quicker.”  

Proper footwear is essential to prevent injuries. Flip flops are a key way to prevent puncture wounds from unsuspected sticks and glass hidden in grass or on the beach. And shower shoes or flip flops can also help prevent plantar warts, which are caused by direct contact with a virus, when children are walking on pool decks and in locker room showers.

“Today you can find a pair of flip flops that provide enough support and protect children’s feet,” said Dr. Ambroziak, “Children shouldn’t be running or playing sports in them, but wearing flip flops or shower shoes can help prevent the spread of plantar warts and infections stemming from cuts or punctures.”

Applying sunscreen to feet is another preventive measure to consider during the summer. Many people remember to apply, and reapply, sunscreen to their face and shoulders, but tend to forget about their feet. When children are shoeless or in flip flops at the beach, pool or park, it is important to be diligent about using sunscreen to prevent sunburns to their feet.

“People don’t notice that their feet are constantly in and out of the water when at the beach or sitting by the pool,” said Dr. Ambroziak, “Your feet are in the sun at all times, so it’s important that the reapplication of sunscreen happens to your entire body.”

Summer sports and running around outside also increase the chance of children spraining their ankle. If children show symptoms of a sprained ankle, including pain, soreness, swelling and difficulty walking, use the RICE treatment method— Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation—to give the ankle time to heal and prevent injury reoccurrence. Sprains not adequately rehabilitated or repeated sprains can cause chronic ankle instability.

“Children are resilient, and they heal quicker than adults. If parents use proper treatment methods, their children will be back on their feet in a matter of days,” said Dr. Ambroziak, “But if children are still showing discomfort three days after the injury occurs, they can bring them to see a foot and ankle surgeon who can start them on a treatment plan, which may include conservative treatments and physical therapy, to ensure proper healing and avoid further injury.”