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20 Apr

Foot Health and the Communal bare foot environment

Recreation has a substantial role in the life of the ever increasing number of citizens in the world . With the ever evolving and civilisation recreational environments are booming offering health promotion and social benefits accompanied with increasing comfort and sophisticated services. Many of these activities create direct exposure to communal bare foot environments, ranging from changing rooms, showers and swimming pools to floors of yoga and martial art studios. Frequent use of any of these can increase the risk of the contraction of viral, fungal and bacterial foot conditions.

The most well known of these conditions and something that most of us will come across at some stage of our lives is verruca Pedis. It is a Dermatological manifestation in the foot of a type of human papilloma virus. This highly contagious virus causes often painful excessive localised thickening of the skin. Generally these ‘warts’ affect children of school age which maybe related to exposure to this virus type. The virus is normally transmitted via  frequented changing room floors, showers and tiled areas of swimming pools. One of the most prevalent areas where the virus exists is on the tiles just below the surface of the water where one tends to push off and glide. The virus has to have somewhere to get in the foot ( crack, scratch , wet skin maceration) and will normally only affect people who are prone to the virus. Also an older person who has recently taken up sport and begins to frequently use communal changing rooms, showers and swimming pools, may themselves develop verrucae. From clinical experience verrucae contracted in adults often prove much more difficult to get eradicate. For all people who have verrucae an immune response has to be achieved in order to stand any chance for the lesion(s) to clear. This can happen naturally through ones own immune system or via a clinical treatment. With adults the immune response is quite often difficult to achieve and can take some time.

Another prevalent skin infection associated with communal bare foot environments are certain types of dermal mycosis( fungal conditions)  causing superficial infection of the skin and nails. The most frequent skin infections associated with these areas is tinea pedis or more commonly known as athletes foot. The fungi responsible for this condition can survive on many objects but thrives on wet surfaces where people walk barefoot. If not treated properly or there is constant exposure to the fungi, then this can lead to nail mycosis( fungal nail) which normally would entail a prolonged and sustained treatment program to eradicate.

Communal barefoot environment foot health provision can only be controlled by informed hygiene people management measures and by concurrent education  of people who use the facilities. There are both old and new ways of reducing your risk of infection and cross contamination from old fashioned flip flops and verruca socks to more revolutionary and less obvious natural barrier sprays. As a practising foot health professional, my advice to all patients is  to protect there feet when using any communal barefoot environment.


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