Starting a new exercise regime or sport sometimes results in uncomfortable skin chafing - but don't let the frustration of friction derail your attempts to get fit. Here are some handy pointers on how to prevent and treat chafing.
No matter what sport you do or what high-tech gear you're wearing, chances are high that you'll have to deal with chafing at some point in your sporting career. "Chafing is when skin rubs against skin or clothing, and it can be very painful," says Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality. It can happen anywhere on the body, but skin on the thighs, groin, underarms, and nipple areas is particularly sensitive to chafing.
3 ways to prevent chafing
Although high-tech fabrics can help to protect your skin from chafing, they don't always work perfectly, especially if you're an endurance athlete. Leach shares her top three ways to help reduce friction:
- Keep dry: Chafing powders or even baby powder can help to absorb moisture from your skin and reduce the friction. These can also help prevent blisters developing on your feet. Simply dust your feet and the inside of your socks with powder. Wearing a moisture-wicking fabric layer under your workout top can also help absorb moisture and provide some protection from chafing.
- Moisturise: A thick gel or moisturiser can help protect against chafing by reducing the friction to the skin. Petroleum jelly is the most affordable solution, but there are many moisturisers you can try.
- Choose your outfit wisely: Choose the clothes you wear when you work out based on where your most significant areas of chafing tend to be. Wear clothes that fit correctly in synthetic fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin. Pay attention to the seams of your clothing to make sure they are tightly-woven and smooth.
Plasters, pads, grips and gloves can either help or hinder - so make sure you pick a comfortable size and try not to repeat too many of the same movements consecutively. Change up your routine to give irritated skin a bit of relief in between.
How to treat chafing
Chafing is more than annoying; it's a wound. The chances of it getting infected increase when you exercise because your sweat can allow bacteria to enter the wound. When you get home, clean the chafed area with water and dry it carefully. Use an over-the-counter ointment to help prevent it from getting infected.
If the area is bleeding, swollen, or very painful, ask your pharmacist for something medicated to help with the wound. Chafing should resolve within a few days, but if it gets worse after treating it, visit your doctor to check that it's not infected. Finally, don't engage in the activity that caused the chafing until the wound is properly healed.
Don't let chafing cut short your sport
If you're prone to cycling cysts or 'the runner's rub', give these tips a try, says Leach. "Don't ignore skin irritations and just hope they'll disappear with time, or give up your training altogether. Try combinations of different preventive measures to find what works best for you, and keep your skin happy and healthy!"
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