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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Preventing Blisters

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Blisters are the bane of hikers. Last October, a group of us hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and blisters nearly knocked a couple of my companions off the trail. The most common causes of blister formation are improperly fitted footwear, new (stiff) footwear, and the physical forces of pressure, rubbing, moisture, and heat. We had all of that as we negotiated long days on hot, dusty, and rocky trails. The time to treat a blister is before you get it, when you just begin to notice the irritation, and perhaps only have reddened skin (a “hot spot”). Before the fluid-filled blister develops, you still have a chance to prevent it. That can be done with a commercial bandage (like the ingenious Blist-O-Ban bandage shown above in the photo); a donut of Molefoam or Moleskin with a piece of Spenco 2nd Skin hydrogel positioned in the hole of the donut; or a padded bandage covered with tape. The best way I have found to avoid blisters is to wear a pair of thin liner socks underneath my hiking socks, so that the friction occurs between the two sock layers, rather than between the sock and the foot.

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Tags: Backpacking

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About the Author

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

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