Sunday, June 17, 2012

RX: for Saddle Sores

The emergence of saddle sores is often met with macho bravado, and this is a HUGE mistake. Often times, and this was certainly true in my case during MIBM, these are not sores at all, but crushing and tearing wounds that create permanent scars and injury which never fully heal. Such wounds will forever limit your saddle time, and deserve an all-out, maximum remedial effort.

There are distinctions to be made between tearing/crushing wounds, sores/boils attendant with infected pimples, or hair follicles, and chaffing or pressure soreness.

Of course, the best injury is one that never happens, and to that end here are some good ways to prevent saddle sores.
  1. Clean and Sterilize your shorts, chamois and seat.  Soaking your clothing in a bathtub of mild bleach solution is an excellent protocol to clean, sterilize, and remove salt from your chamois.
  2. Wash you bottom side with a good antibacterial soap, like Dial, or for problem areas, use  chlorhexidine gluconate soap to sterilize your skin for 6-8 hours. Use this RX for road rash as a general guideline. Wallgreen's soap is cheaper and smells better than Hibiclens, but both are excellent.
  3. Keep skin in tear-prone areas elastic by using lotion when off the bike, and cover with shorts made of non-absorbent materials to prevent lotion from drying out or being absorbed by clothing.
  4. Keep your bottom side dry and ventilated for boils or infections. Save Neosporin for time in the saddle as it will suffocate the wound and retard healing. Apply Hibiclens every 6 hours.
  5. Use an alternative short with a different kind of chamois, different shaped seat, or some combination of these to change the pressure points on your bottom.
  6. Try a seat with a center channel void to increase ventilation to promote drying and cooling.

Once the sore spot develops significantly, you either need to avoid putting further stress on it, or get of the bike. For boils, use max sterilization protocols, and turn everything up louder than everything else. I caught my boil very early, and stayed off the bike for 5 days, as I also was dealing with a tearing wound.

I have not tried talc, cornstarch, or Baby Powder, but have it on good authority that these often work better than chamois butter, lotion, or Utter Butter. I used Utter Butter, and wasn't impressed. Palmer's coco butter lotion was still there and still slick at the end of a bunch of 60 mile rides.

If boils blister, you can pierce with a sterile needle. Using a hemostat and needle, dip the needle and end of hemostat in a small tray/dish of 99% alcohol, and then light on fire with a butane lighter. Let cool and you have a very sterile instrument. Everything that comes out of the boil is infected and full of bacteria, so use Hibiclens to persistently sterilized the surrounding area, and rewash the boil and area after popping it with a sterile needle.

Personally, in a MIBM situation, where you want to minimize the time off the bike, I'd find a good doctor as soon as there is any blistering. Women should be careful not to get Hibiclens on their girl part/s as it has been known to cause numbness. Betadine is a good alternative here, but doesn't have the persistence that Hibiclens does.

Properties of various antimicrobials
Note that the compound in Dial, and other antibacterial soap, Triclosan, is on this list, and persists for at least 45 minutes. It's chemistry is compatible, and reinforces the action of Hibiclens. Dial gets the big chunks off, so the Hibiclens can soak in and get the deep stuff, and keep on killing pathogens for 6+ hours.

Also note that many of these compounds are partially neutralized by organic material, including the cotton of a cotton washcloth. Use a synthetic washcloth for washing. They are commonly available as microtex dish cloths in the grocery store kitchen cleaning supplies area. Mine is labeled Mr Clean. I bought it at Safeway.

These can be sterilized by washing in bleach(kills almost everything known to man), which insures your washcloth stays part of the solution, and doesn't become part of the problem. Just be very sure you rinse all the bleach out, as it will destroy the action of Hibiclens.

1 comment:

Doug said...

Lots of great ideas, thanks! I've had good luck with wiping my nether regions with rubbing alcohol post-ride. This sterilizes better than soap and water, and can be done at your car when you change after a ride.