Foot and ankle problems in children often go unnoticed. Signs and symptoms can be subtle, and sometimes children can’t explain what’s wrong. But it’s important to protect growing feet and have problems checked out early.
There are five warning signs that parents should watch for in their children.
1. Your kids can’t keep up with their peers.
If children lag behind in sports or backyard play, it may be because their feet or legs are tired. Fatigue is common when children have flat feet. The muscles in the feet and legs tire easily because the feet are not functioning as well as they should.
2. Children voluntarily withdraw from activities they usually enjoy.
If they are reluctant to participate, it may be due to heel pain — a problem often seen in children between the ages of 8 and 14. Repetitive stress from sports may cause muscle strain and inflammation of the growth plate, a weak area at the back of a child’s heel.
3. They don’t want to show you their feet.
Children may feel pain or notice a change in the appearance of their feet or nails but don’t tell their parents because they fear a trip to the doctor’s office. Doctors encourage parents to make a habit of inspecting their child’s feet starting at a young age. Look for any changes such as calluses, growths, skin discoloration or redness and swelling around the toenails.
4. Your child often trips and falls.
Repeated clumsiness may be a sign of in-toeing, balance problems or neuromuscular conditions.
5. The child complains of pain.
It is never normal for a child to have foot pain. Injuries may seem minor, but if pain or swelling last more than a few days, have your child’s foot examined. If you have noticed these or any other issues with regard to your child’s feet, please consult your pediatrician or a podiatrist as soon as possible.
Jeff Ash is a doctor of podiatric medicine for Eastern New Mexico Medical Group’s Podiatry Specialists. The advice offered in this column is that of the author.