Airing out stinky feet

By Dr. Lewis First
For The Essex Reporter

First with Kids. Lewis First, M.D.Parents have been walking up to me asking me what to do about the fact that their child’s feet smell. Let me see if I can get a foot up on this topic and provide some information on smelly feet.

What causes feet to smell? Well, we wear shoes, which place our feet in a closed space that gets hot and then our feet sweat.  The smell comes from the bacteria that love to live and grow in damp places like the inside of sweaty shoes or sneakers. As these germs grow, they release their own waste products as organic acids and sometimes sulfur compounds that in about 10 to 15 percent of us really smell bad.

So what can you do if your child has a foot odor problem? You can reduce the amount of bacteria on your child’s feet or the amount of sweat that collects on those feet.

To reduce the amount of bacteria, bathe your child’s feet in lukewarm water for several minutes each day using a mild antibacterial soap and dry the feet when done.

Providing clean socks every day is also critical. Cotton, and some wools, will absorb sweat and help feet breathe more easily and prevent bacteria from growing.  If your child has more than one pair of shoes, consider alternating the shoes worn each day so they dry out for a few days and are less smelly.

To reduce the amount of sweat, avoid tight fitting shoes, which can increase the amount of heat, sweat and moisture on and around the feet. If soles or insoles are washable, wash them, and avoid shoes made of plastic, which do not allow the feet to breathe and to get dry air on and around them.

Try an over-the-counter odor-fighting antiperspirant powder or spray for the foot or even anti-odor insoles. These may help, too.

Finally, the best way to not be embarrassed by this problem is have your child keep his or her shoes on when in social situations, such as at school or riding in a car and then go barefoot at home while they keep their feet clean and dry.

Hopefully tips like this will put you in the “nose” when it comes to knowing more about what to do if your child’s feet smell.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.


Vermont Salmonella Cases Linked to Baby Chicks

For the fourth year in a row, baby poultry from a single hatchery in Ohio are responsible for an outbreak of Salmonella infections in Vermont and other states across the country.

So far this year, the Vermont Department of Health has identified five Vermont cases, including four small children, of salmonellosis associated with baby poultry. All four cases have recovered from their illness. The Department of Health found the same strain of Salmonella responsible for the illnesses in samples collected from the chicks. In each Vermont case, the birds were traced back to Mount Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.

The Department of Health is collaborating with other state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Department of Agriculture to investigate the outbreak.

More information about the investigation can be found at

When baby poultry carry Salmonella they may not appear to be sick, but they can still spread the germs to people. Live poultry may have Salmonella bacteria in their droppings and on their bodies (feathers, feet, and beaks) even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, coops, and other objects in the area where birds live and roam.

People can be exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds and by touching objects where the birds live, such as cages or feed and water bowls. People become infected with Salmonella when they touch something that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria and then touch their mouth or eat with their hands. 
Infection with Salmonella typically causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and/or abdominal cramps. Illness can be severe and require hospitalization. Young children, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness. Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other parts of the body and can be fatal without prompt treatment.

Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put their fingers or other items into their mouth. The Health Department recommends that children should not handle baby poultry. 
You can reduce the risk of Salmonella infection from live poultry by taking the following common sense steps.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live baby poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Don’t let younger children, especially those less than 5 years of age, handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
  • Don’t snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live baby poultry.
  • Don’t let live baby poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios. Keep live poultry outside.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Don’t clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers, inside the house.
  • Don’t give live baby poultry as gifts to young children.

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