October 23, 2021

Swimmer’s toe arising

City officials seeing small cuts on children’s feet at pools

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

People stand on the deck of Wickwire Pool in Cortland on Tuesday. Reports of children developing small cuts on their feet after pool use is not rare or uncommon.

As near-record heat rolled through Cortland on Monday — and humidity sent the heat index past 94 degrees — kids developed almost papercut-like cuts at Wickwire Pool in Cortland, but the issue is neither new nor rare, said Cortland Youth Bureau Director John McNerney.

This may be keratolysis exfoliativa, more commonly known as pool or swimmer’s toe, which refers to “peeling or cracking of the bottom of the toes after being in the pool for a long time,” according to livestrong.com.

The skin may peel or crack, especially in young children, for reasons including:

  • Chlorinated pool water causing irritated feet.
  • Excessively sweaty feet.
  • A pre-existing skin condition, such as eczema.
  • Friction from touching the bottom of a pool.

McNerney said Monday he’s seen young children develop papercut-like breaks of skin while at the pool but it usually doesn’t precede bleeding. He added, but could not confirm, that this may be because children have soft, uncalloused feet that could develop the little cuts or breaks in skin at the start of the swim season.

“We see it early in the year and then it’s not an issue by the end,” of the swim season, he said.


Here are some ways to prevent swimmer’s toe

  • If you have a skin condition that makes your toes more prone to swimmer’s toe, keep swims shorter.
  • Wear footwear around the pool and moisturize feet and toes before swimming.
  • Keep rinses after swimming short
    SOURCE: livestrong.com

McNerney said children who get these cuts can get a bandage from pool staff at the first aid station.

If there is blood, either outside or inside the pool, safety protocols will be taken to clean and prevent a biohazard from infecting others, he said.

If you or a family member develops swimmer’s toe, livestrong.com recommends:

  • After swimming in a pool, rinse off feet with warm water and keep showers to five to 10 minutes.
  • Keep feet dry, including wearing footwear that allow for airflow.
  • Don’t peel skin.
  • Moisture feet with gentle moisturizers.