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Ankle or foot pain is never normal in children, podiatrists say
Ankle and foot problems are never normal for children. If your children complain of even slight pain or some sort of change in their ankles and feet, you should see an expert in children’s foot health—a podiatrist—as soon as possible.
That’s the advice of the head of the American Podriatic Medical Association, Laura J. Pickard. Many people think podiatrists see only older people, she says. Children, however, experience an extensive range of developmental conditions as well as injuries in their ankles and feet. Podiatrists treat them daily.
“I see many children in my practice,” says Priva Parthasarathy of Silver Spring, Maryland, who is chair of the association’s communications committee. Now is a special time to check on your children’s feet as they are going back to physical activities and sports after a long gap during the COVID-19 crisis in public health, she says. Some are experiencing injuries through overuse whereas others are wearing skates, cleats, and shoes from two years ago that are now too small, she explains.
As a parent herself she regularly checks on her children’s feet and watches for any behavior that is unusual. Sometimes children fail to articulate pain in the way that adults do, she adds. A way to check on whether they are suffering pain or other conditions in their ankles and feet is whether they avoid athletic or similar activities or complain of being tired.
Here are common conditions for which parents should keep a lookout in children, according to the American Podatric Medical Association:
• Heel pain
Should a young athlete complain of persistent pain in the heel, it is important that the child’s parent should consult immediately with a podiatrist. The most common cause of heel pain that occurs in children, specially those who are in their preteens, is calcaneal apophysitis or Sever’s Disease.
The condition occurs when the growth plate found in the heel bone becomes inflamed as a result of excessive use in children. It is most often found in those who play soccer and basketball.
• Injuries or fractures
Should a child suffer an ankle or foot injury, the best place to take the child is to a podiatrist. A foot specialist is a good alternative to urgent care facilities or emergency rooms that are often overcrowded and where the child can experience a long waiting time.
Most podiatrists keep spots open for emergencies. In addition, a podiatrist is specially trained to treat ankle or foot injuries, from sprains to fractures.
• Ingrown toenails
In most cases a child’s toenails grow straight out. On occasions, however, both or just a corner or side of the toenail curves and grows into the flesh. Such a condition can cause irritation and redness. This problem can be aggravated by pressure from shoes. Parents, therefore, should ensure that their children are wearing shoes that fit properly.
If an ingrown toenail is left untreated, it can become seriously infected. Antibiotics on their own are not a cure when this condition is reached. A podiatrist, however, can correct the problem using a relatively small procedure.
Children can be susceptible to a wide variety of viruses. Among them is the highly contagious virus that often can cause warts. The virus thrives in environments that are moist and warm. Such environments are found at camps, inside shoes that are sweaty, or on pool decks.
Parents should avoid home-based treatments that might contain ingredients that are harmful. Instead they should make an appointment to see a podiatric doctor for the correct diagnosis as well as for treatment.
Generally, podiatrists can not only treat these conditions when they occur in children, but they also can usually provide rapid relief for the pain that they are suffering.
They can provide care that is conservative and on occasion undertake surgery that will help children to get back quickly into their game, physicians explain.