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Skin Chafing
Prevention Strategies for Walkers and Runners.

Places where chafing is common.

Chafing is one of those uncomfortable things that can happen to anybody, but it's far more common in people just starting an exercise program. First time joggers, runners, even someone who's just getting out and walking a little more than normal can be affected.

Chafing is caused by the sweating and friction of body parts rubbing together or clothing rubbing away at you. Eventually the skin becomes red, irritated and raw. Common symptoms include a stinging or burning sensation. Most of the time it happens in the armpits, groin area, inner thigh and on the nipples. Fortunately you can prevent it. You just have to do a few things before you start.

Drink plenty of water. If you stay hydrated you can perspire freely as you get warm. Perspiration keeps your skin lubricated. If you get dehydrated, the sweat evaporates and leaves behind tiny salt crystals. Dry, salty skin that's rubbing together will eventually become raw and chaffed skin.

Apply deodorant lightly. When you put it on heavy, it becomes sticky and can actually create a problem.

Wear clothing that's snug (not tight) and slippery. The ideal fabrics are ones that help with heat loss and evaporation. Skip the cotton because it retains water and rubs against the skin. Men should consider boxer-briefs instead of briefs and women should dump the pantyhose, they don't let skin breathe.

Look for synthetic fabrics like ClimaLite, CoolMax, Ingeo, PrimaLoft, Sensura, Thermax, Thorlon and Wonder-Wick. They're designed to draw the salty sweat away from skin and provide less friction as body parts rub against each other.

Inspect the clothing before you buy it. Choose clothing with fewer seams, seams that are flat and small stitching. Wash it once before you wear it. Then test it on a shorter walk or run before you fully commit to using it.

Ace bandages or elastic wrap can help by preventing friction. A common place for chafing to occur is the inner thigh, so putting a wrap around each thigh will prevent them from rubbing together. This is especially effective for people who may be a little larger.

Clothing alone may not do the trick, you might have to add an ointment. Cortisone cream, Noxzema, Vaseline and Zinc oxide ointments are all used in areas of repeated chafing. But use them with caution. If you're hairy, greasy ointments can clog hair follicles and produce more irritation.

Long distance runners should look for stronger lubricants. Petroleum jelly is popular because it's easy to find and cheap, but it may not stay on as well as professionally designed products. For serious slipperiness, consider Bag Balm, Body Glide, Chamois BUTT'r, Lube Stick for Runners or Sportslick.

Some people only have problems with their nipples getting raw. A simple band-aid over each one is cheap and may be sufficient. You can also look for specialized products like NipGuards for more advanced protection.

If your skin gets chaffed, you have to let it heal. Clean it with soap and lukewarm water and then apply an antibacterial ointment or antiseptic spray. A+D Ointment is a favorite among runners. Then leave the area uncovered for fastest healing. If it's an area that has to be covered, protect it with a band-aid or sterile gauze so you're clothing won't continue irritating things. Take a break from whatever activity caused it and your skin should recover in a couple days.

Irritated skin that's still a problem more than two days after the rubbing has stopped might have become a fungal infection. If it's happened before and you recognize the symptoms, an antifungal medication like Lotrimin should clear it up. If you aren't positive, get a professional opinion. Applying an antifungal medication to a nonfungal problem can easily make things worse.

Walking, jogging or running are all great ways to get in better shape. But like any physical activity, you have to spend a little time beforehand getting the right gear and preparing your body.

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beginning any diet or exercise program.

8/23/2009