Just yesterday I was shoe shopping with my husband—a very rare occurrence for us these days as we were both shopping for ourselves, and not our kids. Our kids weren’t even with us, in fact, they were at school and we both had the day off for my birthday. And we both needed new shoes for an upcoming wedding, so to the mall we went. It was blazing hot and humid and so I wore flip flops to the mall; when it came to try on shoes, I was dismayed that I couldn’t find any of those disposable footies to wear. So, I just tried on a pair of shiny rose-gold heels without socks or hose on.
Gross, I know. But I wasn’t leaving there without new shoes. This was our only shopping opportunity before the wedding.
So, imagine my horror when I came home from my shopping trip to an article about a 4-year-old girl who got a near-deadly sepsis infection from trying on shoes WITHOUT SOCKS ON!!
YIKES! Let’s just say I immediately checked my feet for skin sores. And then bathed in alcohol and essential oils. Because this seriously happened, and the little girl’s mum (since she’s British, after all) is speaking out to warn other parents about the dangers of how easily her daughter contracted sepsis after simply trying on shoes. She details what happened in her now-viral Facebook post.
Mum Jodie Thomas posted several photos of her daughter lying in a hospital bed with an infected foot and said:
“For all parents please put socks on you’re [sic] children while trying new shoes on. I’m guilty not doing it for mine and myself, but this can be the outcome infection spreading throughout the body. You don’t don’t know whos [sic] feet has been in them before hand!! Sienna has had one hell of a outing and thankfully and touch wood made a full recovery! Who would thought trying new shoes on could make somone [sic] so ill. So with back to school shopping under way, carry a pair of spare socks!”
In an interview with the Metro UK Thomas said that her daughter Sienna was wearing sandals when they went out shopping, and ended up trying on several pairs of shoes from a display without socks on. The next morning, she woke up crying and in pain, and her concerned mother took her to the hospital. There, doctors spotted an infected sore on her foot, treated it, and sent her back home.
However, Sienna’s ordeal was far from over. Before medication could start to heal the infection, it worsened. The infection spread up her leg and she spiked a high fever. A panicked Thomas returned her to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with sepsis.
According to Health.com, “Sepsis is what happens when a bacterial infection enters the bloodstream, causing inflammation to spread throughout the body. Limbs can quickly become damaged and may have to be amputated. And if the infection reaches vital organs, those organs can shut down and a patient can die.”
Doctors told Sienna’s mum that she likely had a small “breach” on her foot—a bug bite, small cut or scrape—that allowed the bacteria that caused her infection to enter her bloodstream.
“The shoes she liked had been tried on by other little girls so that’s how Sienna picked up the infection,” Thomas said. “I knew you risk getting things like athlete’s foot from trying on shoes but blood poisoning is far more serious… You don’t know whose feet have been in the shoes before you.”
Sienna had to stay in the hospital for five whole days, but is now thankfully on the mend.
However, a doctor interviewed by Health.com says it’s just as likely that the bacteria came from Sienna’s own body as it did from a pair of shoes.
“If we take cultures of all of our feet, 100% of us will have bacteria on them at the present time,” says William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “So let’s not implicate the shoe or the shoe store as the source of the bacteria, but rather let’s focus on the important thing—which is to pay attention any time, anywhere we have a break in the skin.”
Dr. Schaffner does say, however, that wearing socks when trying on shoes is your best bet for safety—after all, it’s very likely that the abrasion on Sienna’s foot occurred while she was shoving her darling bare feet into the shoes at the store, and socks would definitely have protected them from getting that cut or scrape.
Nevertheless, I’ll definitely have socks on or footies with me next time I go shoe shopping, and I’ll have my kids do the same!