Plantar Warts: Why You Should Never Shower Barefoot in Gym Showers
Do you remember having to wear those silly looking water shoes growing up? Parents or grandparents would always warn that it was because community splash pads or public pools are filled with germs. Well, today we’re adding another place to that list.
In April 2017, an anonymous listener from Texas contacted “The Rod Ryan Show” on Houston’s 94.5 The Buzz about the importance of wearing shoes in public showers. The Texan man’s warning came after he caught a flesh-eating bacterial infection on his foot.
“It started while I was training for my first ever half marathon. Over my lunch break, I would make a point to go to my local gym and run for a bit. I had never run such a long distance before, so I wanted to make sure I was ready.
Normally, I would make sure that I had all of the necessary supplies in my gym bag for after my run. There were a few occasions where I left out my flip flops that I would use when I showered, but not wanting to go back to work sweaty and smelly I made the decision to shower barefoot.” (1)
Shortly after showering without flip flops or water shoes on, the man noticed a single plantar wart on the bottom of his foot. However, that one wart quickly morphed into five.
The doctor told him that these plantar warts (i.e., benign foot tumors) were caused by the human papillomavirus.
5 Symptoms of Plantar Warts
If you have any of these warning signs, you should go and see a doctor: (2)
- A small, fleshy, rough, grainy growth (lesion) on the bottom of your foot
- Hard, callused skin over a well-defined “spot” on the skin
- Black pinpoints or “wart seeds” which are small, clotted blood vessels
- A lesion that interrupts the normal lines and ridges in the skin of your foot
- Pain or tenderness when walking or standing
“Not wanting to impact my training, I let it go and tried to treat it using any remedy I could find online. I tried duct tape, banana peels, vinegar, and OTC acid treatments with no success. It wasn’t until after my run approximately 6 months later that I went and saw someone.” (1)
Over the months, these seemingly harmless warts turned into open wounds. When he finally did go to see a doctor, they started him off with a cantharidin treatment.
Cantharidin is a natural agent used to help kill infections by causing the infected area(s) to blister. In the Texan man’s case, his doctor would cut away the blistered skin and reapply the cantharidin. (3,4)
The Skin Grafting Trial
The cantharidin treatment – even at higher concentrations! – would not work. After a few excruciating months where his foot would grow so swollen he couldn’t walk, he finally opted for skin graft surgery. As reported by The Rod Ryan Show, the grafts were made from North Atlantic Cod.
After the skin graft trial, his open wounds finally started to close up and heal. Although, it took about three months for him to start walking on his own again.
Going through this was a scary and eye-opening experience. And, as a result, the Texan man who showered barefoot in a gym has some words of advice: (1)
“Do yourself a favor; wear shoes in any public area where there is water. This virus thrives in those areas. The scary thing is the virus can live for over two years on the surfaces as well. Take care of your feet so they can take care of you.”
When to See a Doctor about Plantar Warts
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are six things to help you know whether you should visit a doctor: (2)
- The lesion is bleeding, painful or changes in appearance or color
- Attempted to treat the wart but it persists, multiplies or recurs
- Discomfort that interferes with activities (e.g., walking, running, other sports)
- You have diabetes or poor sensation in one or both of your feet
- A weakened immune system due to immune-suppressing drugs, HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders
- Unsure about whether the lesion is a wart
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