The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Before You Go Barefoot, Beware the Dangerous Grass

Posted by on Thursday, April 11th, 2013

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Walking barefoot feels wonderful. The grass tickles your toes, the breeze caresses skin that’s so used to being cooped up in shoes, and the coolness of the soil is relaxing and soothing. It feels primal and carefree at once. I always love the first really warm day of spring, when I can kick off my sandals and frolic in the park, wiggling my toes with glee. It reminds me of being a kid, when shoes were optional anyway. Of course, like so many other joyous things in this world, going barefoot isn’t the innocent, safe spring and summer activity it once was. To be fair, it’s always had its dangers. Most of us are just blissfully ignorant. I wish I didn’t have to burst that bubble, but in this case it really is better to know.

 

Plantar Warts

The delightful little virus that causes plantar warts or verrucas can live on grass or soil. Having abrasions on your feet will raise your risk, but any contact can result in an infection.

Cuts

Sometimes we forget that blades of grass are blades: and sometimes they’re sharp enough to break the skin (crab grass is particularly notorious for its sharpness). Any time you have an open wound that is coming into contact with bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in the soil, you’re opening yourself up to infection… literally. If you notice an abrasion on your foot, return that foot to its shoe.

Hookworm

Hookworm sounds horrifying, and, while it’s not the worst thing imaginable, it’s certainly not the best. An estimated 576-740 million people are infected. Hookworms are parasitic nematodes that live in the intestine of their host. These can be dogs, cats, or humans. In the developed world, hookworms usually aren’t mortally dangerous. They typically cause iron deficiency anemia and are treatable. In the tropics, however, infection is much more deadly. It’s particularly deadly for neonates and newborns.

 

Tetanus

Hopefully you’ve had a tetanus shot, but even still, contracting tetanus is a possibility unless you get a booster after exposure. Unfortunately, our parks and lawns aren’t the pristine places they once were. If you step on a rusty nail or scrap of metal that breaks the skin, you should visit a doctor right away.

 

Deer Ticks

I live in the northeast where deer ticks are an ever present danger. These little critters cause lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can cause extreme sickness and, if left untreated, can result in long-term neurological damage, joint pain, nerve damage, and other frightening problems. If you find a deer tick on your skin, remove it safely by gently pulling it out with tweezers. Then, freeze the tick in case you develop the telltale bull’s eye rash of lyme disease. Your doctor can test the tick for bacteria to confirm your diagnosis.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. 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.