As a traveling doctor, I have a list of items I pack routinely for my international travel. One of those items is disposable flip-flops or shower shoes. No, it’s not medical but it will protect you medically and reduce pain.

Your feet are an entry point into your body, similar to your mouth. As you walk along the rocky beaches of the world cutting the soles of your feet or standing in the shower of your hotel in an underdeveloped country, remember to protect your feet. The bottom surface of your feet is called the“ plantar” region. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites [worms] can enter the plantar when defects are present. These organisms enter the body and travel within the blood, while others only affect the surface skin like plantar warts.

Plantar warts are caused by a virus [human papillomavirus] and enter the plantar surface through minor cuts and scrapes. It’s highly contagious and may spread on surfaces, like pools, showers, or gym surfaces. Warts may not appear until weeks after initial exposure. Most adults have built up an immunity to the virus and it is seen more commonly in children. However, adults with weakened immune systems are at risk of getting plantar warts.

Plantar warts only remain on the surface of the skin and are somewhat “harmless.” The major complaint is the pain they cause. Calluses form to prevent the spread of warts, but pressure and constant walking on the feet cause pain. They typically wart will go away without any treatment. They appear as small bumps on the soles of the feet (possible dark dots on the surface) and cause pain in the area when standing or walking. If the area becomes red, hot to the touch, and more tender, an infection may have developed. You need to seek medical treatment.

IMG: Large Plantar wart. Creative Commons. Wikicommons

An item I always include in my international pack is duct tape. Duct tape? How is that connected to plantar warts? Warts will soften when duct tape is placed over them for a prolonged period and will reduce your pain. DO NOT attempt to cut them off – you may cause more harm. Other treatments are topical solutions [salicylic acid], burning or freezing, but the best way is prevention. Purchase those roll up shower shoes or dollar-store flip-flops for the pools and showers. It will only add 3-4 oz to your bag you can also place them in the outside pocket of your carry-on. If you don’t have the shoes, remember to wash your feet with disinfectant soap after walking bare feet on those surfaces. Also, keep the soles and heels moisturized to avoid dry skin cracks.

Take care of your feet and you too can travel WELL!

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