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Foot Care When Traveling (For People with Diabetes)

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Why is foot care important?

When you have diabetes, taking good care of your feet is important - especially when traveling. Poor foot care can lead to serious problems.

Whether your trip includes skiing, touring city streets, walking sandy beaches, or making business presentations, you will probably spend a lot of time on your feet. This can increase the risk of foot problems.

Following the guidelines in this article will help you keep your feet healthy while you’re traveling so that you can enjoy your trip.

What should I do before I leave home?

Being well prepared before you leave for your trip will help prevent problems. Follow these guidelines:

  • Talk to your doctor about your trip. Ask your doctor how to care for your feet while traveling.
  • Write down your doctor's phone number and a current medication list. Keep this information with you in your carry-on bag, purse, or wallet. This information will be helpful if you need to see a doctor away from home.
  • Don't forget to wear medical identification that states you have diabetes.

What should I pack?

1. Comfortable shoes:

  • Break in stiff, new shoes before you leave for your trip to avoid foot irritation.
  • Plan to wear dress shoes or high-heeled shoes only when necessary.
  • Bring at least two pairs of shoes so you can switch pairs often. Changing shoes helps prevent blisters and sore pressure points.

2. Comfortable socks:

  • Socks with padding will protect troublesome pressure points.
  • Socks made with natural fibers, including cotton and wool, will keep moisture away from your skin and will protect your feet against fungal infections.

3. First aid kit:

  • Pack a first aid kit so you can treat cuts, blisters, or other foot sores right away to prevent infection.
  • Pack your first aid kit, medications, syringes, and testing supplies in a purse or carry-on bag so they are not lost or misplaced. (Be sure to get a letter from your doctor that explains that you have diabetes and need to carry syringes and testing supplies with you on the plane.)

What should I consider when traveling to cold climates?

  • Choose shoes that will protect your feet from the outdoor conditions (cold, moisture, etc).
  • Wear boots or shoes that will keep your feet dry.
  • Wear insulated socks to keep your feet warm so that you can avoid circulation problems.
  • Make sure your shoes, boots, or skates fit properly. If you have neuropathy (nerve damage that results in loss of feeling in your feet), you may not notice that your boots or shoes are too tight.
  • Be sure to try on footwear with the socks that you will be wearing.
  • Take time to come indoors frequently to warm up so that you can avoid frostbite.

What should I consider when traveling to warm climates?

  • Never go barefoot - protect your feet at all times when you are walking by the pool, in the park, on the beach, or swimming in the ocean.

Why? Walking barefoot increases your risk of cuts from broken glass, wood pieces, broken seashells, coral, or other harmful objects. Bacteria can enter your body through cuts on your feet and cause an infection.

  • Wear shoes that are especially made for ocean or beach walking. You can buy these at a sporting goods store or possibly at a store near the beach.
  • Do not wear open-toed shoes, including sandals, flip-flops, or other types. When your toes are exposed, you increase your risk for injury and potential infections.
Important foot care guidelines
  1. Examine the tops and bottoms of your feet each day. Look for any blisters, cuts, scratches, or other sores. Also check for redness, increased warmth, ingrown toenails, corns, and calluses.
  2. Wash your feet every day with mild soap and lukewarm water. Gently and thoroughly dry your feet.
  3. Use lotion on your feet to prevent cracking. Do not apply lotion between your toes.
  4. Care for your toenails regularly. Cut your toenails after bathing, when they are soft. Cut toenails straight across and smooth them with an emery board.
  5. Do not self-treat corns, calluses, or other foot problems. Go to a doctor or podiatrist to treat these conditions.
  6. Don't wait to treat a minor foot problem. Follow your doctor's guidelines listed below.

First aid guidelines for your feet

What should I include in my kit?
  • Antibacterial cream
  • Gauze pads
  • Hypoallergenic tape or paper tape
  • Hypoallergenic bandages or cloth bandages
  • Prepackaged cleansing towelette (in case soap and water are not available)

Additional items that may be helpful to prevent irritation:

  • Moleskin (to prevent rubbing at pressure points such as heels, bunions, etc.)
  • Lambswool (to prevent rubbing between the toes)
How should I take care of small cuts?
  1. Gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water.
  2. Apply antibacterial cream to the cut.
  3. Cover the cut with a hypoallergenic bandage, cloth bandage, or a gauze pad with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  4. Change the dressing at least once a day.
How should I take care of blisters?
  • Don't try to break or "pop" the blister. The skin covering the blister helps protect it from infection.
  • Gently wash the area with a mild soap and warm water.
  • Apply antibacterial cream to the blister.
  • Cover the blister with a gauze pad. Secure the gauze in place with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  • Change the dressing at least once a day.
  • Wear other shoes until the blister heals.
How should I take care of minor skin irritations?
  1. Gently wash the area with a mild soap and warm water.
  2. Cover the irritated skin with a gauze pad. Secure the gauze in place with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  3. Keep checking the area to make sure the irritation doesn't get worse.
  4. Change the dressing at least once a day.
How should I take care of minor burns?
  1. Don't try to break or "pop" blisters that may have formed.
  2. Gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water.
  3. Cover the burn with a gauze pad and secure it in place with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  4. Change the dressing at least once a day.
How should I take care of frostbite?
  1. Use warm water to warm the skin (98°F to 104°F).
  2. Call for medical help immediately.
  3. Don't rub the area or apply creams.
  4. Don't try to walk on the affected foot.

When should I call a doctor or podiatrist?

  1. If you do not see an improvement the next day after treating a minor foot problem, such as a cut.
  2. If you have pain or discomfort that continues for more than 2 days.
  3. If you notice any pus developing on the sore or near it.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/10/2008...#4196