This week, about 4.5 million people across the country are expected to travel by air for Thanksgiving. That means that nine million feet will be going through the busy TSA lines, and unfortunately, a lot of them will be barefoot. This is a public health hazard that Dr. Patrick McEneaney, founder and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, is well aware of and wishes more people knew about this before they arrive at the airport so they can avoid any injuries or infections. 

When a lot of different people walk barefoot on floors in such a high-volume and concentrated setting like a TSA line, the chances to spread and/or pick up a virus or contagious pathogen are high. 

'When you’re going through the TSA lines, always wear socks. You absolutely don’t want to be walking around barefoot on the airport floor. How many other people have also been walking around barefoot in that exact same spot over the course of a day? A lot! Even if the airport is diligent about cleaning these areas and sanitizing them properly, that still means that in this one 30-foot space, thousands of people are all walking through with different, contagious foot conditions,' said Dr. McEneaney.

Common pathogens include plantar warts (verruca plantaris) and athlete's foot (tinea pedis), he also stressed that exposing your bare feet to the dirt and germs in such a busy area leaves even healthy feet vulnerable, but others are more at risk than other, like those that have diabetes. Combine that with any debris you may step on, even very small objects carried in by other people's shoes, can lead to an infection. People waiting to get through airport security

Dr. Michael Doyle, a foot and ankle physician and surgeon with Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists added, “It may sound like common sense to not walk on an airport floor barefoot, but it happens all the time and it's totally preventable by just wearing socks. This applies to other high traffic, public places like locker rooms, saunas, workout classrooms and pools. And once you wear those socks, put them in the laundry as soon as you can - don't walk around your mom's home or hotel room later on that day with the same dirty socks on.”

He also stresses to not walk around the actual plane without your shoes. 'I've seen this with my own eyes - it's madness to expose your feet, even while wearing socks, to the filthy plane floor aisle, seating area, and worse, the bathrooms. Just don't! Otherwise you could be making an appointment with me before Christmas!'

However, if anything happens to your feet or ankles over the holiday, make an appointment with Dr. Doyle by clicking here! He’s seeing patients at the Resurrection Medical Center Campus as well as the First Community Hospital Campus.