Kids grow fast, which means that kids’ feet grow fast. Yet for many parents, it’s hard to know when a child is experiencing normal growing pains, and when they need to see a podiatrist.
Podiatrists are health professionals who can diagnose and treat issues with feet, toes, toenails, and even lower leg pain. A podiatrist might be based in his or her own private clinic, or at a hospital.
You do not have to get a referral from your GP before visiting a podiatrist, but it doesn’t hurt to see your child’s GP for an initial assessment of the problem. It’s better to do this sooner rather than later, because you may have to wait before an appointment with your preferred podiatrist becomes available.
But before you go about making appointments, let’s look at the answers to our initial question: When do you need to take your child to a podiatrist? Here are some common conditions that might need a podiatrist’s attention.
Signs Your Child Needs to See a Podiatrist
When there’s nothing wrong with your toenails, you probably don’t give them a second thought. But even something as small as a toenail can cause serious pain if it becomes infected or ingrown.
If your child has an infected or ingrown toenail, it’s probably time to see a podiatrist as waiting it out can compound the problem. The same goes for oddly-shaped or thickened toenails, as this could indicate toenail fungus.
If your child is active or plays sports, you may notice a blackened toenail, which suggests that there is a blood blister underneath. It can cause pain that a podiatrist may be able to relieve.
This is a condition where one or more of your child’s toes ‘curl,’ or bend over. It’s thought to be genetic and could be linked to a tight tendon. In some cases, these toes improve themselves as your child grows.
If your child is over the age of five and suffering pain or irritation due to curly toes, it may be worth taking your child to the podiatrist for further advice.
Warts are most common in children, and they often turn up on the feet. Unlike corns, which are caused by friction on the skin, warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. Children can contract the virus through cuts or cracks in the skin after direct contact with someone who has it.
While warts are typically not harmful to your health, they can become painful and they don’t look very nice. They’re also tough to get rid of and no treatment is 100% guaranteed to work. Your podiatrist may try a cream, freezing, or medication to remove your child’s warts.
Untreated warts may eventually go away by themselves, but they can also spread and begin to group together. This can intensify the pain, especially when walking.
Foot or lower leg pain
Foot and lower leg pain can be an indication of a more serious problem, such as Sever’s disease or tendonitis. Sever’s disease is an inflammation of the heel growth plate, seen in growing children. If your child complains of heel pain, especially if he or she is active, it should be checked out.
Pain in other parts of the foot or lower leg should also be assessed, as they could be related to a treatable condition. Although it’s possible that these pains are just related to growth, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.
Although our feet do flatten out over time, extremely flattened feet at a young age could be cause for concern. If you notice that your child’s feet turn inwards and they have a bulging ankle joint, it might be time to take your child to a podiatrist.
Flat feet do not always lead to further problems, but they can cause pain when occurring in conjunction with high activity levels.
If your child struggles to walk, or walks on the tips of their toes, you might need to see a podiatrist. The same goes if they are pigeon-toed or if their toes turn out, and for children who struggle to stay balanced or trip while walking.
A podiatrist can assess the issue and recommend a course of treatment, such as strengthening exercises, different shoes, or orthotic insoles.
The Value of Knowing When to Take Your Child to a Podiatrist
It’s tough to decide when to take your child to a podiatrist, but if you suspect something’s not right with your child’s feet, don’t ignore it. Something that seems small in an infant or young child can become a real issue in adulthood if left untreated.
Fortunately, many foot problems in children are treatable, if you get them seen early. If your child is less active and complains of pains, it could be time to see the podiatrist.