If you haven’t heard, college dorms are notoriously famous for the exceptionally swift dissemination of microorganisms. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and mites: all live to engage in a germfest party when in tight, enclosed spaces. This means nursing homes, hotels, prisons, schools, and, yes, college dorm rooms.
There is good reason that colleges now require up-to-date vaccination records prior to entry.
Here’s a topic that tends to slip our minds when it comes to our college preparation discussions: how to prevent the contraction of all of these organisms that set up shop on college dorm floors.
We can get easily consumed by the endless list of to-do’s before cutting the parental cord: registration, setting up housing, the extensive shopping, updating your vaccines, hopefully devising your own college first aid kit, dealing with parental hovering. This means we can easily forget one vital item: your feet, a common nidus for infectious diseases.
Let’s find out why every college student living in the dorms should not leave home without a pair or two of flip-flops for the shower, and shoes everywhere else.
Athlete’s foot is one of those potentially embarrassing conditions that no one wants to admit to having, but is way more common than apple pie. You may be quite surprised at how prevalent it is after spending a day with me in the clinic. It always astounds me how people live with conditions like these for years, even decades, before discussing it with their doctor. Believe me, it’s not just for athletes. Anyone can get athlete’s foot.
The reasons athletes tend to contract this fungus on their feet is because they break a serious sweat, and because they tend to walk barefoot all over the locker room and shared shower areas. Fungus is literally everywhere your feet go: in the shower, on the floor, around the pool, in hotel room floors, in our socks, and in our shoes.
People with athlete’s foot often describe the bottom of their feet and in between their toes as cracking, scaling, itchy, and sometimes red. When severe enough, it can even blister. This fungus can also spread to other areas of the skin to cause ringworm or toenail fungus. In order to prevent its contraction, simply follow one instruction: do not walk barefoot … anywhere. Especially in shared spaces like dorm rooms and showers.
You can also bleach your shower floors weekly and wash your socks in bleach to help prevent this disturbing bug from infesting your feet. If you already have athlete’s foot, then it’s vital to treat it before heading to the dorms.
Along the same lines, toenail fungus is another very common foot condition that is contracted in the same manner. Fungus seeps beneath the nail and spreads from there. The nail often appears yellow, thickened, and even as though it is “lifting” off the skin. Even though it may be a potentially unpleasant sight, it is really a cosmetic issue. You can leave it alone if it is not bothersome, but to prevent your other nails from a similar fate, please follow the same instructions as for athlete’s foot.
Most people have seen, heard of, or have experienced warts on the skin. Well, they can also wreak havoc on the bottom of your feet. A wart on the surface of the skin of your body is typically more easily treatable—your doctor can “freeze” it off with liquid nitrogen at the office, or you can even try the home “duck-tape” treatment.
Warts on the bottom of the foot, called “plantar warts,” are not as friendly.
But the warts on the bottom of the foot, called “plantar warts,” are not as friendly. They are painful. Destroying them is not as easy. This is due to two key reasons.
First, because the skin of the bottom of the feet is one of the thickest on our bodies, and these beasts go deep. Therefore they often require several visits to the doctor for repeated liquid nitrogen therapy in order to eradicate them. Another option is laser removal, performed by some dermatologists and podiatrists, but check with your health insurance to determine if this procedure is covered before rushing to the specialist.
And second, because our feet house numerous nerve endings, destroying the tissue there is not a picnic. It may be unpleasant but typically not intolerable.
I have to admit, fungi and viruses are by far more daily common ailments when compared to bacterial infections. But they too can invade your feet. All they require is an opening in the skin. Sometimes they penetrate via the edges of the toenails and infect the skin surrounding the nail—this is called a “paronychia,” and is often treated with oral antibiotics.
They also can enter in any minute and sometimes non-visible opening through the skin or via a site of a recent bug bite, scratch, wound, or penetrating object. Tetanus is also a threat to the foot. This is a terrible bacteria that is known for causing a “lockjaw,” which is a painful stiffening and spasm of the muscles that begin in the jaw and neck and then spreads to the rest of the body. The classical description of the contraction is via “stepping on a nail,” but it can happen through any skin opening caused by anything. It can also effect the muscles that regulate breathing and can be fatal.
This is why colleges often require an up-to-date vaccination for the Tdap vaccine, which provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough), as well as other nasty bacteria with potentially fatal repercussions.
Your feet are important. In fact, vital. Because we walk on them every single day. Imagine how limited your life would be if you couldn’t use even one foot. Therefore, do your feet a huge favor: wear shoes everywhere. And for the shower, get a couple of pairs of inexpensive water proof flip flops. And don’t leave home without them.
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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.
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