Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Chafing is Not Just for Babies

Out on the trail, on your bike, on a dive boat, and in many other outdoor situations, skin rashes are high on the list of disorders suffered by adventurers. For me, and many others, the earliest sign of too much sweating, dirty clothes, and something rubbing is chafing on the inside of my thighs.

Chafing is generally caused by the insides of the thighs rubbing together, and is worsened by moisture. Persons with heavy (especially fat) legs are more prone than are thin persons, although in times of high humidity or sweat- and grime-soaked clothing, chafing can afflict anyone. Other predisposing factors are irritating clothing (such as a coarse hemline on a pair of hiking shorts that terminates where the thighs rub together). Once you have initiated the rash by jogging in the heat, riding a rough bicycle heat, or wearing a tight neoprene wet suit for too long, minimal abrasion will cause it to fester and become more reddened and painful.

One potential solution is to wear nylon or other synthetic bicycle pants that are long enough to cover your entire thigh. These can be worn under hiking or running shorts. If you will have bare skin rubbing against bare skin, sometimes a thin layer of Vaseline helps to decrease friction and prevent chafing. There are also commercial products designed to allow skin to glide against other skin or clothing, in order to prevent chafing.

Since salt water or sweat absorbed into the liner of a pair of shorts or bathing suit will cause chafing, be certain to bathe or wash the areas that are irritated each day with soap and water. If chafing becomes itchy and extends into your groin, suspect a fungal infection.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.