Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Cracked Skin (Feet)

Definition

  • Cracked skin on the toes or feet

Call or Return If

  • Starts to look infected (redness, red streak, pus)
  • Cracks last more than 2 weeks on treatment
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Symptoms

  • Cracks are always painful
  • Pain increases when exposed to soap or even water
  • Minor bleeding can occur

Causes

  • The soles of the feet are involved. Most often, cracks occur on the heels and big toes.
  • Cracked skin of the feet is caused by repeated contact with moisture. Swimmers often have this problem.
  • The main cause is wearing wet or sweaty socks.
  • This is called tennis shoe or sneaker dermatitis.

Prevention

  • Change socks whenever they are wet or sweaty.
  • Take an extra pair of socks to school.
  • When practical, do not wear shoes. Go barefoot or wear socks only.
  • Do not use bubble bath or other soaps in the bath water. Soaps take the natural oils out of the skin.
  • Use a moisturizing cream on the feet after baths or showers.
  • Wear shoes that allow the skin to "breathe".

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • Cracks on the feet can be very painful.
  • The main cause is frequently wearing wet (or sweaty) socks.
  • Cracked feet usually can be treated at home.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Shallow Cracks - Use Ointment:
  • Cracks heal faster if protected from air exposure and drying.
  • Keep the cracks constantly covered with petroleum jelly 3 times a day.
  • If the crack seems mildly infected, use an antibiotic ointment instead. No prescription is needed. Put it on the cracks 3 times a day.
  • Covering the ointment with a Band-Aid or a sock speeds recovery.
  • Option: If you have it, a liquid crack sealer works even better. Don't use crack sealer and ointment together.
Deep Cracks - Use Liquid Crack Sealer:
  • Deep cracks of the feet or toes usually do not heal with ointments.
  • Use a liquid skin bandage to seal the crack. Many brands of liquid bandage (crack sealer) are available at your drugstore. No prescription is needed.
  • Liquid skin bandage is a plastic coating product that seals wounds.
  • It is the best way to relieve pain and promote healing.
  • Wash and dry the wound first. Then put on the liquid. It comes with a small brush or with a swab. It dries in less than a minute. Then apply a second coat. It's waterproof and may last a week.
  • Start with 2 layers. Put on an extra layer as often as needed.
  • As the crack heals from the bottom, the plastic layer will be pushed up.
What to Expect:
  • Most cracks heal over in 1 week with treatment.
  • Deep cracks heal if you keep them covered all the time with crack sealer. Deep cracks will heal in about 2 weeks with crack sealer.
  • Untreated cracks can last for years.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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