Stepped on a Nail (ER) Emily Halevy | CWK Network

“One of the most important things that a parent should do if their child steps on a nail or any other sort of object that penetrates the foot, is remember that there’s risk for damage to tissues underneath and that there’s a risk for infection…so one of the first things you may need to do is clean the wound and apply pressure and then seek medical attention as quick as you can.”

–Mike Ziegler, MD, emergency pediatrics, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta


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When kids are outside playing in their bare feet and step on a nail, an immediate concern is tetanus. But it turns out that they might be in even more danger if they were wearing tennis shoes.

“Was he wearing shoes at the time or was he barefoot?” asks Dr. Mike Ziegler, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Last night eight-year-old Jacquai stepped on a nail. He recently had his booster shots, so tetanus is not the issue. “And it went through the bottom of his shoe and came out the top?” the doctor asks.

Jacquai was wearing tennis shoes. “These shoes will often grow an organism called pseudomonas, which if it gets into the tissues and near the bone can actually cause a nasty bone infection called osteomyelitis,” the doctor explains.

Pseudomonas bacteria grows in moist, warm environments like soil and sweaty tennis shoes.

The fear is that he’s already showing signs of infection. “The thing I’m a little bit concerned about is that the toe is already somewhat swollen,” explains Dr. Ziegler, “and that there’s already a little bit of milky discharge down there where the nail went in, so I really want to try to prevent this from becoming somewhat worse.”

Pseudomonas is very resistant to antibiotics, but there is one that should work, Cipro. “It’s one of the few antibiotics that we can give by mouth that will actually help to treat and deal with a pseudomonas infection,” he tells the family.

Jacquai will go home, but he’s not out of the woods yet. “It’s very important that parents understand also that the wound may look clean, there may be no fever, but injury down deep inside the tissues could be leading to a smoldering infection that can destroy bone,” warns Dr. Ziegler.

He will need to follow-up with his regular doctor in a few days to make sure the infection is not getting worse.

By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

Infections can develop as the result of germs getting into an injured area on the foot. According to experts at WebMD, be on the lookout for the following signs if you suspect inflammation or infection of the toe, foot or ankle area:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness or warmth around the affected area
  • Red streaks extending from the affected area
  • Drainage of pus from the area
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Fever of 100°F (37.78°C) or higher
By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

The feet contain 52 individual bones – that’s 25 percent of the bones in the entire body! There are also muscles, tendons, ligaments, arteries, veins and nerves. It is especially important to ensure your child’s feet are healthy because these bones, muscles and ligaments are still developing and are very susceptible to any external stresses. The Doctors of Pediatric Medicine have created the following tips to help maintain your child’s healthy feet:

  • Do not bind covers over your baby's feet. It restricts movement and can retard normal development.
  • Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions that prepare the feet and legs.
  • Change baby's position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot, especially on the stomach, can put excessive strain on the feet and legs.
  • Once children begin to walk, their feet should be examined by a podiatrist.
  • Check shoe size periodically to ensure that feet have room to grow, and watch for excessive shoe wear in any one area.
  • Do not hand down shoes from one child to another. Each pair of feet has its own requirements.
  • Walking is the best of all foot exercises. Observe your child's walking habits. If you see toeing-in or toeing-out, knock knees, or other gait problems, professional attention is needed.
  • Night leg cramps are usually due to foot fatigue and muscle imbalance. So-called "growing pains" frequently are symptoms of abnormal foot mechanics.
  • Remember that lack of complaint by a youngster is not a reliable sign. The bones of growing feet are so flexible that they can be twisted and distorted without the child being aware.
  • Be very careful about employing home remedies against fungus infections or warts on the foot. Strong preparations can burn or otherwise hurt the skin.
  • Consult a podiatrist whenever you have questions about your child's foot health.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Emergency Services
Doctors of Pediatric Medicine