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The Mysterious Blue Toes

It was 2:00 am Sunday morning.  A young mother carried her 1 year-old baby into the ER.

The nurse brought them right back and placed mother and child into room 1.

“Hello, I’m Dr. M.  What brings you in tonight?” I asked.

“My baby’s toes are blue,” she said anxiously.

This is something we take very seriously as it can be a sign of low oxygen in the blood, something we call cyanosis.  Mom lifted up his bare feet to give me a better look.  Indeed, she was correct – his toes were a light blue color.   The baby looked just fine, though.  He was playful, smiling at me.  Certainly had no respiratory distress.

“Well,” I said, “he certainly looks healthy.

I checked his oxygen saturation.  It was perfect at 100%.  I gently placed my stethoscope on his back and listened to his lungs.  The air moved nicely in and out.  Again, perfect.

“Does he walk?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said.  “He just started.  I even bought him a new pair of shoes.”

“Can I see his shoes?”

Mom reached into her big bag full of baby paraphernalia and pulled out a pair of blue shoes.  At that moment I knew why his toes were blue, and, upon closer inspection, both feet had an overall bluish tint.  Mom was young.  This was her first child.  She was right to bring him in as blue fingers and toes can be serious.  This time it was harmless.

“Does he wear socks with his shoes?” I asked.

“Not always,” she answered, still not sure where I was headed.  Then,

“Oh my goodness! It’s the shoes!” she said.  “I’m so sorry.”

I assured her that it was right to bring him in.  It was late at night.  She had concerns that could have been serious.  It’s a simple matter for us take a look.  Fortunately, the explanation was simple.

If you have concerns about your child, please bring him or her in.  No, you don’t want to rush in for every little issue, but, if there is potentially a serious problem or any issue that needs prompt treatment, don’t hesitate.  We’re happy to help and open 24/7.