Various factors, including genetics, injury, and improper footwear, can cause foot and ankle problems in children. These issues can cause pain, discomfort, and limited mobility, which can significantly impact a child's overall health and well-being. Fortunately, many standard foot and ankle problems in children can be recognized and treated correctly.
Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, are a common foot problem in children. Flat feet occur when the arches do not develop properly, causing the feet to flatten out when standing. While flat feet may not always cause pain or discomfort, they can sometimes lead to foot fatigue, arch pain, and knee, hip, or back pain.
To recognize flat feet in children, look for signs of a flattened arch when the child stands or walks. The child may also complain of foot or leg pain after physical activity.
Parents and caregivers can encourage the child to wear properly fitted shoes with arch support to treat flat feet. Stretching exercises and physical therapy may also be recommended to strengthen the foot muscles and improve arch support.
Ingrown toenails occur when the edges of the toenail grow into the skin around the nail, causing pain, redness, and swelling. Tight shoes, improper nail trimming, or an injury to the toe can cause this condition. To recognize ingrown toenails in children, look for signs of redness, swelling, and pain around the affected toenail. The child may also complain of discomfort when wearing shoes or socks.
To treat ingrown toenails, soak the affected foot in warm water and Epsom salts for 15 to 20 minutes, three times daily. Gently lift the edge of the toenail and place a small piece of cotton or dental floss under the nail to help it grow out and away from the skin. If the ingrown toenail is severe or infected, seek medical attention from a healthcare provider.
Plantar warts are small, fleshy growths on the foot soles caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Plantar warts can be painful and spread to other foot parts if left untreated.
To recognize plantar warts in children, look for small, grainy growths on the soles of the feet that may be accompanied by pain or tenderness.
Treat plantar warts, over-the-counter wart treatments may be effective. These treatments typically involve applying salicylic acid to the affected area and covering it with a bandage. If home treatments are ineffective, seek medical attention from a healthcare provider.
Sever's disease, calcaneal apophysitis, is a common foot problem in active children. Sever's disease occurs when the growth plate in the heel bone becomes inflamed, causing pain and discomfort.
To recognize Sever's disease in children, look for signs of heel pain, particularly during physical activity. The child may also limp or avoid putting weight on the affected foot.
Rest and ice can effectively reduce pain and inflammation to treat Sever's disease. Stretching exercises and physical therapy may also be recommended to improve foot strength and flexibility.
To recognize ankle sprains in children, look for signs of pain, swelling, and limited mobility around the ankle joint. The child may also have difficulty putting weight on the affected foot.
Over-the-counter pain relievers may also be recommended. In severe cases, medical attention from a healthcare provider may be necessary.
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury when the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone, becomes inflamed. Achilles tendinitis can cause pain and stiffness in the back of the heel and ankle. To recognize Achilles tendinitis in children, look for signs of pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the back of the heel and ankle. The child may also complain of discomfort during physical activity.
and ice can effectively reduce pain and inflammation to treat Achilles tendinitis. Stretching exercises and physical therapy may also be recommended to improve foot and ankle flexibility and strength.
Toe walking is a common foot problem in young children, particularly those with developmental delays. Toe walking occurs when a child walks on the balls of their feet rather than using their entire foot. To recognize toe walking in children, observe their gait when they walk. The child may walk on their tiptoes or appear to be standing on the balls of their feet.
Physical therapy and stretching exercises may be recommended to treat toe walking to improve foot and ankle flexibility and strength. Proper footwear with a heel may also be necessary to encourage the child to walk on their entire foot.
Recognizing and treating standard foot and ankle problems in children is essential to ensuring their overall health and well-being. By following these tips and seeking medical attention when necessary, parents and caregivers can help children maintain healthy and pain-free feet and ankles.