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Sweaty Sock Syndrome

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

With all of the heat and humidity around the country, many kids are swimming every day, or in sports camps where they have on socks and athletic shoes. Both of these summer activities can lead to wet feet, one related to the pool and the other to sweaty feet. What do the two have in common?  They may both lead to a problem called juvenile palmar-plantar dermatosis (JPD) or maybe more appropriately “sweaty sock syndrome”.

As you can imagine, JPD is a common dermatologic problem of childhood and typically presents with an asymptomatic red smooth appearing rash on the surface of the soles of the feet and sometimes the palms. It most commonly involves the front part of the sole of the foot and the toes, but characteristically spares the skin between the toes.

While the rash typically does not cause much of a problem, at times it can lead to cracking and fissuring of the skin on the feet which may lead to pain and possibly infection.

While the cause of JPD is unknown, repeated wetting and drying of the skin may be the culprit. You can see this problem when the foot remains wet, especially from sweaty feet inside sweaty shoes and socks, which then are exposed to dry air as with air conditioning or heat in winter months. The same goes for the child who lives in the pool and then comes in to the air conditioning.

Sweaty sock syndrome is often mistaken for athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot typically involves the webbed spaces between the toes and is usually seen in older children than JPD.

The treatment for JPD is to try to interrupt the wet/dry cycle. Try having your child change their socks frequently if they have sweaty feet, (in the winter when not so hot I have them double sock, and take off a pair during the day). The best treatment in the summer months is to wear open footwear and follow this by moisturizing with a thick emollient cream each morning and evening. Occasionally an over the counter topical steroid may help.

So…if you think your child has athlete’s foot and the antifungal cream is just not working…..think “sweaty sock syndrome”.

That’s your daily dose today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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