Blisters and other stuff

I've done things on blisters before, (I walk a lot so... anyway) a fellow Gobi 2011 team member, Sucheta, has asked me for advice so here goes.

"What do I do to prevent blisters..."

1. Make sure your shoes or boots fit correctly. Sounds daft, but try different styles, different manufacturers etc when choosing your boots. One size 11 boot (UK Sizes) may be different from the next when it comes to length, width, and so on. Try BOTH on not just one, time spent in the shop is time well spent, trust me.
2. New boots? Break them in before you do any serious stuff. Wear them around the house, but take them off before walking on the new bedroom carpet, trust me, I know all about this too. After a bit of 'in house training' your boots will be more flexible and easier on your feet.
3. Reduce friction, the cause of most blisters (but not all). Use petroleum jelly if your planning on walking or running any great distance in new boots, even if they have been 'house trained' apply some to the places where you feel they may rub your feet.
4. Always wear socks, not the fashion tube shaped, or should I say shapeless things, but good quality 'foot shaped' socks. Stay away from cotton too, as this will hold moisture like a sponge and wet feet spell disaster. Go for an acrylic sock or better still merino wool. Once again, spend some time with the sock choice, time spent here means less time with me looking at your feet. That has to be good news all round.
5. Keep your feet dry to help prevent painful blisters from forming on your feet. Use foot powder on a daily basis before you put your socks and shoes on. (Gobi Team please note, I'll have some with me, but I advise you bring your own. 60 days multiplied by 28 feet (assuming 2 each) equates to a large amount of powder for one medic to carry). If you're a sweaty foot person... firstly stay on the right side of the wind from the rest of the team when removing boots, but also... take your footwear off at every possible opportunity and dry your feet. At night (and I think Ripley has already said this somewhere else) try to stay barefoot when safe to do so, if not get yourself some sandals (not flip-flops) and let the air get to your feet.
6. Some people put moleskin or tape over hot spots on their feet that are prone to blisters, as a preventive measure. If you do this, make sure that whatever you use is applied smoothly, any wrinkles will be as bad as a wet foot in a cotton sock in your grand-dads old boots.) but don't do it up so tight that your toes turn blue.

Keep feet dry, in a good quality sock (not cotton) and in a good quality boot/shoe, that fits well and has been broken in or 'house-trained'

Treating Blisters.

Now some people say cover them, some say don't. Some say pop 'em some don't. Some even go as far as to heat up a needle and stab yourself with it. Don't! That's all I'm going to say!

If you already have a blister and it's not painful, just leave it alone, since the skin serves as protection. It will eventually break and the fluid will drain. If the blister is painful, for Gobi 2011 Team only, come and see me and I will carefully pierce the blister painlessly and with a sterile something-or-other, drain any fluid out and use an antiseptic cream, and cover it, I'm nice like that. Everyone else, if it's that painful see your doc who will more than likely ask a nurse to do what I just said above. DON'T go stabbing yourself with anything.

Now for the other stuff...

Preventing Mosquito Bites

Malaria is not a problem where we're going so I'm going to call this bit...
"Avoiding Insect X"
X is responsible for the spread of many tropical diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, leishmaniasis, the list is huge. Stopping X from biting in the first place has to be the best way to avoid getting anything nasty. Indeed in some cases, leishmaniasis for example, this is the only way to avoid it. X is a bit fond of carbon dioxide, movement, heat, some colours etc. So to avoid 'the bite' we try and cover up these things. Either wearing long sleeves and trousers or with chemicals.
Chemically I have to say, I have found DEET or N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide products to be the best. I am however going to be field testing some other products and letting the Gobi 2011 Team know what I find. DEET may be good stuff but some people say it is harmful, and I know from experience, that if it leaks in your day-sack, it plays havoc with anything plastic. Digital Camera for example, I liked that camera too.
Whatever chemical is used it should be reapplied at regular intervals, especially in hot, humid conditions when they may be removed by perspiration, and after swimming. When both sunscreens and repellents are used, the repellent should be applied over sunscreen. Sunscreens that contains repellent should be avoided as it may encourage excessive use of DEET.

All chemicals have rules and here are some of mine...
  • Use only on exposed areas of skin
  • Do not apply to cuts, abrasions or irritated skin.
  • Remove with soap and water when the repellent is no longer required.
  • Don't spray directly on your face and wash your hands after using the stuff.
  • Read the instructions!!!

Treatment of insect bites

Small, red, sometimes raised areas that are very itchy usually mean that agent X has been at work. Swelling can be reduced by the using mild steroid cream. Anti-histamine tablets can be taken to try and ease any itching. DO NOT SCRATCH and keep clean and dry to avoid infection.
Ticks need to be removed from the skin very carefully. This can be done with tweezers or specially designed tick removers, better still by me or Ripley (sorry mate). Grasp the tick near to the skin and steadily pull out the tick being careful not to crush the tick’s body or squeeze the stomach contents into the site of the bite. It's also a good habit to erm... er... find out who ya mates are, and if you're in an area prone to tick-borne encephalitis, check each other out each night for any lodgers in those dark warm areas, like armpits and... well, you get the idea!

I hope this has helped Sucheta and all the other members of the Gobi 2011 Team, indeed anyone who may be off on their travels.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for this Steve! As regards blister prevention, I always wear a single pair of thick walking socks but I have some friends who swear by wearing two pairs. Is there any logic to this?
Beyond the Blog said…
Yep, there is logic to this, some sock makers even produce double-layer socks. Best still is if the inner layer is made of a wicking fabric and the outer sock is slightly thicker to provide padding. The idea is that the socks move against each other and not your foot. The downside with this of course is that you may be making your boots too tight by wearing extra socks, undoing all that time spent in the shop finding a pair that fits. Unless of course you wear two pairs when buying them.

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