There’s nothing as cute as a baby’s foot – soft, pink and perfectly formed. But how can you ensure your child’s feet stay as healthy (if not as adorable) as in her early years? There is a lot parents can do to keep tiny tootsies in tip-top condition. Keeping toe nails trimmed, getting common foot problems seen to quickly and making sure they have good, well-fitting shoes will all help to carry your child forward into adult life.
Many young children have an aversion to having their toenails cut, so if you have a wriggler, try to do the deed when your child is otherwise occupied, such as having a bottle or when they are asleep. The nails should be cut straight flat across and not too short. After bathtime, the nails will be softer, and you can carefully nibble them off if you prefer.
Babies and young children have a lot of fleshy skin around their nails, and they can suffer from ingrowing toenails. This is when the sides of the nail grow incorrectly and dig into the skin. One of the warning signs is if you can’t see the top corner of the nail and the skin appears red and inflamed. Symptoms also include blisters and discharge. Ingrowing toenails can be easily treated by a podiatrist who can either cut the nail away, or push the skin to let the nail grow out. If you suspect an infection, you should see your doctor.
Children rarely need to be treated for other feet problems, but it’s worth knowing the signs. Verrucae are warts that mainly affect the sole of the foot. They often have tiny black speckles and can be very small from the size of a pinhead, up to the size of a 2p piece. Verrucae are easily caught from the floor in communal showers or swimming pools and children can be susceptible because they haven’t yet built up immunity to the virus that causes them. In most cases, they are best left alone and clear up in their own time, although this may take some time.
Relatively rare before adolescence, athlete’s foot appears as an itchy, sore, moist, red rash usually between the fourth and fifth toes, but it can appear on other parts of the feet. It is caused by a fungus and it spreads quite easily. The best treatment is improved foot hygiene, ensuring feet are washed and dried thoroughly, and that shoes fit well, allowing air to circulate. There are also powders and lotions you can buy over the counter to clear up the infection.
Slight foot deformities, such as hammer toes (which bend at an angle) or claw toes (which bend under), are also rare in young children and, even if they do occur, don’t often require intervention, although it is advisable to get medical advice. If problems persist or a young child shows a reluctance to walk, experiences discomfort or has a clumsy posture, a podiatrist should be consulted as they can help with strengthening exercises, or advise on splints or insoles if appropriate. Many toddlers are pigeon-toed and this is generally due to a tightness in the ligaments. It can cause balance problems, but in 95 per cent of cases children grow out it. If problems persist after four, a podiatrist can provide some stretching exercises to correct the limbs if necessary.
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