The last two weeks have been kind of crazy, balancing work, family, making new gear, dehydrating food and a final shakedown on the Superior Hiking Trail with an amazing group of women.

img_2024.jpgI plan to post on our trip prep soon, but am starting with an update on my previous post about Hiker’s rash.  It’s neck and neck with Make your Own Ultralight Backpack for most popular spot on the WP Blog as of today.   As odd as it may be to write about your rash on the internet…by putting it out there, I’ve realized that this is a condition that affects a lot of people, without much medical info on treatment or prevention.   Sharing has been encouraging and has also dispelled my fears about it.

I also had some official testing done by my primary care doc just to rule out thyroid, vasculitis and unhealthy inflammation issues during a regular visit.  All tests came back negative…so it’s not anything more serious.   Mom always said I was special.

IMG_6445
Day 1: Hives (this was a particularly bad one 2 years ago)

HIVE MIND

I posted a question on a couple of Facebook groups I’m in, looking for anyone who had Hikers rash and had successfully dealt with it for consecutive days hiking or backpacking on the trail.   Typically, I take a day to recover whenever I have had it, so I was a little worried about it showing up on a long trip.

I received close to 200 responses ranging from “oh, that’s what that is”, to switching to drinking only ionized water and changing my socks or laundry soap.   A health reporter from the Duluth News Tribune also reached out to me for an interview and a photo shoot on the trail.   Luckily I didn’t NOT have a rash to photograph that day.   

The most encouraging advice was from a couple of AT Thru-hikers who had this and told me that their rash resolved itself on the trail over time and with regular leg soaks and antihistamines.  Whew!   I was starting to get a little concerned that this would affect my comparatively short 2-3 week hike.   That’s what I needed to hear.

fullsizeoutput_1eadIn addition to the remedies in my original post, here are some of the suggestions I’ve tried since or will be filing away for future reference:

  1. Soak legs in cold water ASAP and frequently during hiking breaks.   I actually tried this last weekend and it stopped that rash in it tracks!
  2. Elevate elevate elevate.   Hung my hammock on breaks and tried to get my legs up whenever I stopped.
  3. Apply Aloe Vera Gel.   This works to relieve the heat and burning and I now carry a small bottle of it with me in the first aid kit.   I don’t care if it’s a little heavy as a gel, it works…and works for burns too.
  4. Apply Lavender oil-I tried this at home as a spray and it relieved the burning almost instantly, slightly numbing the area.   Plus it smells great.   I probably won’t bring any on the trail, I don’t need any bears sniffing my legs at night!
  5. Air out your legs!   I naively tested out some waterproof socks for about 3 miles (because I thought it was going to rain) and my legs got super hot and itchy.   I rolled them down quick and got my legs in the water as soon as I could and the red welts that were starting to appear subsided after a 20-30 minute soak in the river.   I still think compression socks help, just make sure they are not SUPER tight and that they breathe.
  6. Other untested but intriguing suggestions include:  Arnica Gel, witch hazel, slowing down, Sarna lotion, acupuncture and fish oil.

So, today, I’m not on the trail, camp or in my cubicle.   I’m babysitting another dehydrator full of food and nursing a husband that had emergency gall bladder surgery yesterday.   It’s not the week at Scout Camp that I had planned, but it’s life…and it’s good.  I’m taking this opportunity to slow down a little and be exactly where I know I’m supposed to be.

Enjoy this last month of Summer and keep those boots (or shoes) dirty!

~WP

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10 thoughts on “Update on Hikers Rash and More Thru Hike Prep

  1. Sounds like you got some good responses… cold water soaks, antihistamines, and aloe vera sounds good to me. How long do you expect to be on SHT thru-hike?

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  2. It’s always a good idea to try out aloe vera in advance, as it makes some people itch and possibly get a rash. Like me 🙂 Oh man, does it make me itch!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for posting about this condition. I’ve had it for years and no doctor I’ve seen has ever even heard of it. I have to tell them what it is after finally figuring it out myself by reading posts like yours. Mine usually flares with playing tennis in the heat, although it will also flare with any heat exposure if I’m on my feet, walking or standing. Compression has so far been curative for me, with prevention being key. Once a flare commences, it takes days or even weeks to calm down completely. I wear compression sleeves any time I’ll be exercising in temps above 80 degrees and standard compression hosiery for going about daily activities when temps are predicted to be much above 90 degrees, which is most every summer day where I live. The full athletic compression socks were a non-starter: too tight in the toe box, too too thin, too slippery. I need my activity-specific cushioned Thorlo socks inside my shoes for hiking or tennis, although if I’m wearing street clothes and just going about daily activities, good quality standard compression hosiery is fine inside regular sandals or shoes.

    I never thought of cold soaks or antihistamines! I’ll add those to my arsenal.

    Happy Trails to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post ,I’m a 64 yr old male long distance hiker, troubled with hikers rash .some good ideas in your post to try. Cold ,wet hike in tke smokies yesterday, liner sock, darn tough and gaiters and RASH ,!

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    1. Bummer! Sorry to hear that! I have found that its all trial and error but elevating on breaks and trying to get the legs in cold water helps. Maybe try a compression sock instead of gaiters and see how they feel? Happy hiking and good luck to you in the smokies!

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  5. Thanks for posting about your rash. It’s so helpful to hear from other hikers dealing with it. I developed this irritating hiking limitation a couple years ago seemingly out of the blue and also had my primary care and dermatologist rule out anything serious but not be able to do much for me other than suggest I take a double dose of Zyrtec before hiking. That hasn’t seemed to do much to prevent it for me and makes me drowsy. I just finished a 4 day trip in Hell’s Canyon and was super disappointed to feel it starting to come on at the end of day 1. I had tried to plan my trip when it would still be cool and not exceed 14 miles per day (seems to be my limit) however a heat wave hit for my trip and on the ground mileage was just hitting my limit each day. The rash is irritating and painful when you’re hiking through a lot of brush that touches the inflamed skin but I figured its not the worst thing that could happen to me on a difficult trail and I was able to cool off in streams occasionally. The problem for me was that by the end of day 3 my lower legs, ankles, and feet started to swell and got a lot worse on the last day as I had to climb 5000 feet out of the canyon in the blazing sun. So that would be my caution of ignoring the rash. For me it seems to advance into swelling that takes many more days to go away. Most of my trips, the rash hasn’t occurred until my last day hiking out. Only one other time has it occurred during a multi-day trip and I got swelling then too but didn’t have much farther to go so the swelling wasn’t as bad then.

    I’ve tried hiking in compression socks and got a particularly bad rash I think because it made my legs hotter so have been scared to try again but maybe I’ll try to find a cooler pair. I’ve been using a homemade arnica and lavender oil balm with a coconut oil base as a soothing relief at the end of the day. (I skip this if in grizzly country.) What is annoying me the most about the rash is that I have increased my fitness and could easily hike farther and more challenging trails without being sore but this is limiting my factor. I suppose on the bright side it has motivated me to do more off season hikes and train more in the hopes that maybe I can adapt my legs to not overheat one day. Like you, this isn’t going to make me stop hiking. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Az, thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds miserable but Im glad you’re still trucking along! I tend to avoid hiking in the heat as much as I can…always looking for good suggestions to try too. Hang in there and happy hiking!!! -wp

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