Baywatch Goes on Wart Watch: Lifeguards and Plantar Warts
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, December 28th, 2012
Lifeguards are some of the most glamorous figures of our youth. They sit on their perches, their tanned and oiled bodies monuments to Summer. What a job! Lounging, tanning, checking out the cute beach goers: they must have the highest job satisfaction of anyone anywhere. For many an awkward teenager, lifeguards are the epitome of beauty and coolness: an unattainable perfection we all secretly envy. But there’s a dark side to this shimmering vision of health and vitality, lurking on the soles of those strong, muscled feet: plantar warts.
Plantar warts are caused by the human papilloma virus. That’s right: the same group of nasty bugs that can cause cervical cancer. There are over 100 different kinds of HPV and only a few types cause warts on your feet. The warts tend to be small and fleshy or grainy. They’re often found on the ball of the foot on on the heel. They may be tender and, if scraped, they may bleed. But the real kicker here: the strain of HPV that causes plantar warts loves warm, wet environments. Pool party, anyone?
In fact, walking barefoot on a heavily trafficked, moist surface is an excellent way to contract a plantar wart. So lifeguards who walk barefoot over wet, well-trodden surfaces all day long are at particular risk. This is especially true when we consider the virus’ point of entry: dry, cracked, or well-softened skin (like skin that has been soaked in water during a warm Summer’s day). If you happen to be a hard-partying lifeguard, your chances of contracting a plantar wart are even greater. The virus is opportunistic, meaning it often infects people with weakened immune systems. In other words, a few wild nights and early mornings by the pool can be a recipe for disaster wart-wise.
This is bad news for lifeguards but it’s bad news for swimmers too: plantar warts are contagious. They’re not easy to get—healthy skin, short-term exposure, and a strong immune system will protect most swimmers—but if you have risk factors, you may want to consider wearing some flip-flops. Here are some other tips for avoiding these nasty little infections:
- Minimize direct skin-to-floor contact around pools and in locker rooms.
- Keep feet as dry as possible.
- Try to keep your skin in good condition (it’s particularly important to protect skin from cracking, so regular moisturizing can help here.)
While there are some home remedies for treating plantar warts (salicylic acid treatments are available over-the-counter) they may take months of regular treatment to clear up the infection. If you’re a lifeguard, lengthy treatments may be impractical and, in the meantime, you may be exposing others to infection. Visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for cryotherapy. This treatment uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart. It is fast, effective, and will get you back on the docks in no time.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.