How to Prevent Common Heat-Related Ailments
Blisters, chafing, and sunburn can strike anytime, but they’re more common in hot weather. Here’s how to treat these problems and to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Lots of downhill running and too-small shoes can bring these on, as both cause your toes to slam into the front of your shoe. Wear properly fitted shoes and trim your nails regularly. Once you have a black toenail, there’s not much you can do. It’ll usually heal on its own within a few months. If it’s really painful, see a podiatrist, who may drain the fluid from under the nail.
These are caused by friction, excessive moisture (sweaty feet, wet weather), or shoes that are too small, too big, or tied too tight. So be sure to buy properly fitted shoes. Because your feet can expand a half size over a day, shop in the late afternoon or evening. Putting Vaseline, sports lube, and bandages over blister-prone spots may also help. Ignore blisters smaller than five millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser), since they’re usually not painful. But pop the big ones. With a sterile needle, prick the side of the blister and drain it. Don’t remove the top of the blister; instead, cover it with an antibiotic ointment and moleskin or a bandage.
Skin-to-skin and skin-to-clothing rubbing can cause a red, raw rash that can bleed, sting, and make you yelp during your postrun shower. Moisture and salt on the body make it worse. Underarms, inner thighs, along the bra line (women), and nipples (men) are vulnerable spots. To help prevent it, wear moisture-wicking, seamless, tagless gear. Fit is important—a baggy shirt has excess material that can cause irritation; a too-snug sports bra can dig into skin. Apply Vaseline, sports lube, Band-Aids, or NipGuards before you run. To treat chafing, wash the area with soap and water, apply an antibacterial ointment, and cover with a bandage.
The best way to prevent these is to be well trained, because fatigue seems to be the main reason for cramping in races and hard workouts. Plyometric training (bounding, hopping) may lower your risk as well, and so may keeping well hydrated with a salty drink. If a cramp hits, stretch immediately. If your calf cramps, for instance, stop running, straighten out your leg, pull back on your toe, and hold the stretch for several seconds. You may need to continue this for 2 to 3 minutes. Then massage the muscle to help ease the pain and get you ready to run again.
To lower your risk, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wear a hat, run in the shade, and wear sunscreen. Because sunscreen can’t withstand prolonged exercise, stash some in your pocket or circle back to your car so you can reapply every hour. You can also wear technical apparel that blocks UV rays. If you get sunburned, taking an anti-inflammatory and applying aloe vera a few times per day will take the edge off the pain.