Several foot problems have their origin in childhood and are present at birth. Periodic professional attention and regular foot care can minimise these problems in later life.
The infants foot
The human foot has 28 bones, and is laced with ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Since the bones in children’s feet are soft and pliable, abnormal pressure can easily cause deformities. A child’s feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half of their adult foot size. This is why Podiatrists consider the first year to be the most important in the development of the feet. The following are some suggestions to help assure that this development proceeds normally:
- Look carefully at your baby’s feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you , seek professional care immediately. Deformities will not be outgrown by themselves.
- Cover your infants feet loosely. Tight covers restrict movement and can slow normal development.
- Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions which prepare the feet for weightbearing.
- Change the infants position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot, especially on the stomach, can put excessive strain on the feet and legs.
It is unwise to force a child to walk. When physically and emotionally ready, the child will walk. Comparisons with other children are misleading, since age for independent walking ranges from 10 to 18 months.
When the child first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. Allowing the youngster to go barefoot or to wear just socks helps the foot to grow normally and to develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of toes. When the child is walking outside or on rough surfaces, feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible footwear made of natural materials.
The maturing child’s foot
As a child’s feet continue to develop, it may be necessary to change shoe and sock sizes every few months to allow room for the feet to grow. Although foot problems result mainly from injury, deformity, illness, or hereditary factors, improper footwear can aggravate preexisting conditions. Shoes or other footwear should never be handed down from one individual to another.
As the child grows, foot health examinations annually are recommended.
Problems noticed at birth will not disappear by themselves. You should not wait until the child begins walking to take care of a problem that has been noticed earlier.
Remember that lack of complaint by a child is not always a reliable sign of foot health. The bones of growing feet are so flexible that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware of it.
Walking is the best of all foot exercises, according to podiatrists. Podiatrists recommend that walking patterns be carefully observed. Does the child toe in or out, have knock knees, or other gait abnormalities? These problems can be corrected if they are detected early.
Going barefoot is a healthy activity for children under the right conditions. However, walking barefoot on dirty pavements exposes children’s feet to dangers of infections through accidental cuts and to severe contusions, sprains or fractures. Another potential problem is plantar warts, a condition caused by a virus which invades the sole of the foot through cuts and breaks in the skin.
Be careful about applying home remedies to children’s feet. Preparations strong enough to kill certain types of fungus can harm the skin.