|HOW TO PREVENT BLISTERS AND CHAFING
Chafing often occurs on the inner thigh, groin area, armpits, nipples, etc. as a result of sweating, and friction from body parts rubbing together, or friction from clothing. The best treatment for chafing is prevention.
Stay hydrated - Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Among other things, staying well hydrated will help prevent chafing by allowing you to perspire freely. When you are not well hydrated salt crystals form on your body increasing friction.
Clothing - Select snug fitting (but not tight) clothing. Shorts or jog bras that are too tight or too loose will create friction and rubbing. Choose breathable, wicking fabrics .... Coolmax, Supplex, Polypro, etc are good choices. No cotton!
Clothing should have few seams, flat seams, and small flat stitching.
Do not wear untested clothing on a long walk and never wear unwashed new clothing.
Stay Dry - Use talcum powder or cornstarch to stay dry. (Gold Bond is highly recommended and can be found in most drug stores. Two Toms Blister shield is another good option.)
Lubricant - When you increase your mileage all other efforts may fail. It is time for real preventative. There are a variety of lubricants on the market readily available at most running and cycling stores. Many people use petroleum jelly because it is inexpensive and easy to find. I don't really like the consistency, and find it doesn't stay on as well as many of the sports/running products. Popular lubricants include Runners Lube, Sportslick, Body Glide, Sports Shield, Chamois BUTT'r and Chafe Eez.
Udder Balm or Bag Balm - These products are manufactured for livestock, but safe and effective for human use. Runners and long distance athletes have used them for years and many think they work better than some sports lubricants.
Make your own lubricant - I found this recipe on a couple of the running boards. Mix equal parts A & D ointment and Vaseline (1 cup each). Then add vitamin E cream and Aloe Vera cream (1/4 cup each) to improve consistency and smell. (Mixture should be stiff, yet applicable.) It not only protects skin from chafing but can help heal the skin and also is helpful with blister prevention. Low cost and effective. Measurements do not have to be accurate.... this is not baking!
Treatment - The general treatment for chafing is to treat the area by washing with soap and cool to luke warm water. Then apply an antibacterial ointment or antiseptic spray, cover with a bandaid or sterile guaze. I prefer A and D ointment. (Yes, the diaper rash ointment!!) It relieves pain and itch, promotes healing, and keeps the area lubricated so you can continue walking without discomfort. After this product was recommended to some fellow walkers it soon became known as "Magic A & D" it works so well.
Sometimes you don't notice chafing until you step in the shower. Don't worry... after the initial shock it gets better.
Blisters are also caused by friction, heat and sweating. Most of the same preventative measures apply, but walkers will try almost anything to prevent blisters.
Stay hydrated - Same as above, be sure to stay properly hydrated including sodium replacement if needed.
Shoes - As with many other walking ailments, begin with the shoes. Your shoes must fit properly to avoid blisters. Too snug or too loose is always a problem. Ensure that there is ½ inch space between your longest toe and the end of your shoe. Be sure that you have enough room to wiggle your toes inside the toe box, and your heel does not slip when you walk.
Choose shoes that breath well. I like shoes with a lot of fabric or mesh combined with leather rather than a solid leather shoe.
Inspect the inside of your shoes for seams or worn areas that might produce extra friction.
Socks - Select socks that fit your foot without being too tight or too loose. Stay away from tube socks as they don't fit close enough to the foot.
Choose soft wicking fabric such as coolmax (NO cotton). Cotton absorbs moisture and is usually a little rough in texture. Ensure that the socks do not have bulky stitching at the toes or heels. Thorlo, WigWam, and Thermolite are a few of the popular brands.
Some people choose to wear two layers of socks (or a sock that is made with double layers) to aid in blister prevention.
Do not wear socks that are too worn. Thin areas and holes are very likely to produce hot spots and blisters.
Do not wear untested socks on a long walk and never wear unwashed socks. Also follow manufacturer's laundering instructions for the best results.
When walking distance carry a spare pair of socks. Change during your walk if your feet become sweaty or wet. (Tip: dust the inside of your spare socks with talcum powder and place in a ziplock bag inside your fanny pack.)
Stay Dry - Using powder along with the right sock can really help. Use foot powder, talcum powder, or cornstarch to stay dry. (Try Gold Bond or Dr. Scholls foot powder.)
Lubricant - Many distance walkers use lubricants on their feet. This is very common for marathon walking. I have been using Body Glide on my feet for the last couple of years. See the lubricant list under chafing for more suggestions.
Blister Block Pads, Second Skin and Spyroflex - If you have specific places that are prone to blisters you might try applying one of these prior to your walk. Note: most of the products listed here can be found at your local drug store. Look in the foot care, and shoe care areas, if they are not located with first aid products.
These items can be used as a preventative, or to provide cushion and protection after a blister has formed.
Band Aid Brand Blister Pads - I love this product. When training for some of my marathons I used the Band Aid blister pads on my heels during long distance training. And during the longest walks I also covered my middle toe for extra protection against black toe. They are like a thick rubbery extra skin you apply to problem areas. It cushions and protects. I had very good results (blister free except the rare occasion when I missed a spot) and they even stayed on in the rain.
Spenco Second Skin - Soothing hydrogel dressing for blisters. Should be held in place with adhesive knit tape.
Spyroflex Wound Dressing - Use as both a preventative treatment against blisters, etc., or as a protection over a blister, cut, abrasion or other wound. Both of these products were recommended to me by ultra marathon runners.
Some long distance walkers/runners will apply tincture of benzoin to skin every day for a few weeks in order to toughen sensitive areas. Tincture of benzoin can be found at your local pharmacy. It is not prescription, but it is usually kept behind the counter or they may have to order it for you.
Of course others will suggest that softer feet are less likely to blister. You can keep your feet soft by applying a moisturizer daily.
Engo Pads - These are peel and stick pads that you apply to problem areas inside your shoes. They work great if you have a seam that rubs.
Wrapping and Taping - Wrapping toes with moleskin or taping feet with athletic tape (or duct tape) is also a common practice. If you wrap your feet it is important that the tape is applied smoothly (no wrinkles) and not too tight. Ultra walkers might tape their entire foot, but most walkers only need to tape up hot spots.
Moleskin can also be used to cover a blister that has already formed. I buy the self adhesive kind in sheets. Cut a piece larger than the blister and cut a hole in the center. (Shaped like a donut.) The outer ring will help cushion the blister, but the blister itself will not be covered.
Hopefully using one of these preventatives or a combination of things will keep you blister free. It is important to apply the products prior to your walk if you are prone to blisters. You can also carry supplies with you on your walk. Stop and apply as soon as you feel a hot spot to prevent a blister from forming.
Treatment - Use the following steps to minimize the chance of infection. Small blisters can usually be taken care of without puncturing. Leave intact and use only steps. 1, 3, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
1. Wash your hands with disinfectant soap and water.
2. Put on latex gloves.
3. Clean the blister and surrounding area using a disinfectant soap or solution.
4. Sterilize the tip of a needle by soaking it for at least three minutes in a disinfectant solution or heating it until it glows red, then cools.
5. Make a small puncture at the base of the blister. Leave the roof of the blister attached so it can continue to protect the skin.
6. Use a gloved finger to gently push the fluid out.
7. Apply antibiotic ointment to a piece of gauze and cover the wound. Avoid drying products such as alcohol.
8. Cut a hole the size of the blister in a piece of moleskin.
9. Cover the blister with the moleskin so that the blister rests in the middle of the hole and the adhesive sticks to the skin around the blister.
10. Replace the bandage daily and check for signs of infection: heat, pain and swelling on or around the blister, pus, red streaks radiating from the blister, or fever.
(Diabetics may need medical attention for blisters or other skin care. Please consult your physican for information. Also see this link: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/skin-complications.html).
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