March is a traditional travel month for thousands of college students and families as spring break gets underway. And many of those travel destinations include sandy beaches. Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic has a word of advice for those traveling outside of the U.S.: "While packing your beach bag, pack your sandals or shoes."
“There are a lot of different kinds of infections that people can get from going to the beach. In the U.S., we really don’t have the kind of soil and parasites that you can get in the Caribbean or elsewhere in the world, where walking barefoot could actually lead to getting hookworm," says Dr. Tosh. "But if people are traveling to the Caribbean, they really need to be wearing footwear.”
Dr. Tosh says shoes or sandals also provide a safety feature. "There are many reasons to be wearing footwear while on the beach. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of broken beer bottles that you can get cut on."
In general, Dr. Tosh says getting into the salt water is generally safe. Dr. Tosh says, "Although people with certain liver conditions should certainly be very aware because there’s certain kinds of bacteria — vibrio species — that you can see in salt water that can cause very severe, potentially fatal infections in patients with advanced liver disease," Dr. Tosh says.
Along with wearing your shoes at the beach, remember to stay hydrated, and wear plenty of sunscreen while enjoying the outdoors, especially during peak daytime hours.