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Holidays: Sore Feet and Sunburn

Indian Ocean Shore line - Wilderness SA
Image by Donnie Ray via Flickr

Sore feet or sunburn could ruin your holiday. Whether you are going to the coast, mountains or bush, you need to pay special attention to protecting your feet this summer.

As the holiday season gets going, many of us will be exposing our feet to the African sun for longer periods than usual. Remember that if your feet are usually covered by shoes and socks, they will need as much protection as your face and shoulders. (Or your bald head). Despite the fact that we spend a lot of time barefoot or in sandals in South Africa, during holidays the time is often extended.

The most vulnerable part of your feet is the skin on top of your arches. However you can also get sunburn on the soles of your feet if you like to indulge in serious ‘sun-worship.’ Obviously any part of your feet that is exposed is at risk. Initially you might not feel too much discomfort from sunburn, but when you put closed shoes on there will be pain.

Usually, sunburn is confined to a patch of inflamed, sensitive skin, which responds to protective after-sun preparations. The end result is skin dryness and peeling after a week or so and little harm is done. In severe cases however, the inflamed area starts to blister and itch. This is when scratching or opening the blisters can lead to infection.

Always apply sunscreen on top of your feet before you go to the beach, shopping or walking. You might need to re-apply after swimming, depending on what you use, or suits you. If you are spending a long time lying face down with bare feet protect the soles. After showering, treat your feet as you would the rest of your body with your choice of after-sun preparation.

Another common holiday foot problem is burning the soles of the feet. Here again it is usually because the soles of our feet are not as tough as we think and so we forget that the beach sand burns. The same thing applies to the patio tiles or paving.

Don’t do crazy things like walking barefoot over the car park. We all know that it’s thought to be very ‘macho’, to run around barefoot on holiday, but there is nothing ‘macho’ about peeling, blistered soles.

Unfortunately wherever you are, at the beach or around the dam your bare feet are not protected from broken glass, cool drink cans, palm thorns, bits of charcoal from the braai, even rubbing from your new sandals! Watch out for those beach thongs rubbing between your big toe and second toe too.

Always wash sea sand off your feet before you walk any distance, because it can chafe and irritate skin between your toes.

You might even get painful feet from all the extra walking that you do. This can be a big problem if you are walking along a beach where the sand is rough, or if you spend time jumping around in the sea on rough sand. It can also happen if you are enjoying the sights of a chilly Northern Hemisphere winter, as you spend more time walking around.

Finally, as you lie on that soft, sandy beach preparing to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean, remember it’s not just the sharks that can get you, look out for sea anenomes, puffer fish and coral!

So just think ahead. Protect your feet and those of your family, but above all, relax and enjoy putting 2008 behind you. Don’t let sore feet or sunburn spoil your holiday, but if it does, go and see a podiatrist.


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