There are many types of dermatological conditions that might resemble the ones discussed below. If the symptoms persist or aggravate the best you can do is to see a doctor or get some advice from the local pharmacy.
Do it sooner rather than later; the rest of your wonderful experience of the camino should not suffer from delaying the decision to get proper medical advice!
You might also want to take a look at the bed bugs and other critters page for some other skin conditions of a totally different nature.
Hiker’s Rash / Golfer’s vasculitis
A red heat rash on the calves, very common among walkers. The heat rash often starts above the sock line and makes red patches and splotches up the calf. It usually doesn’t itch. The rash is more common in people over 50. Most walkers can’t pinpoint anything new they have used that may be causing a reaction. Since so many walkers have it, they couldn’t all have contacted the same irritant. The source is simply heat and age–your leg blood vessels getting irritated from the heat. It commonly goes away by itself after a few days. Pampering yourself after a good long walk by taking a cool bath, sitting with your feet up, or applying cool wet towels to the rash may help relieve discomfort. In addition, you can take off your boots/shoes and socks when you are having a longer break and apply cool water to the areas.
Heat Rash – Prickly Heat
Unlike golfer’s vasculitis, this one itches. It is triggered by blocked sweat glands and causes raised itchy red dots or bumps. It is best treated by getting out of the heat for a few days and not scratching the area. It usually appears on the upper body parts in the most common ‘sweat areas’.
Menthol powder or an OTC anti-itch cream can ease the symptoms. To decrease the risk of getting it you should be mindful of wearing clothes that are loose-fitting and breathing so you get easily rid of excessive sweat.
Chub rub / Chafing
This can become a big problem meeting you every step of the way. No, it’s not reserved for big folks. Your posture and your natural way of walking will determine whether e.g. your thighs rub against each other. You might also have this rubbing going on, without any particular consequences for your skin.
If you have thigh gaps: congratulations. Take a closer look: the chafing spot just moved up a bit. Let’s face it: if you don’t have any parts that might touch each other while walking, your name is Sponge Bob. While men obviously will need to be more concerned about their thighs than about their breasts (although there is a thing called ‘runner’s nipple’…), the problem in general is not reserved to women only either. Let’s just say both men and women have their particular parts that are more prone to chafing.
In humid and hot conditions chub rub and general chafing can really rise to organize a BBQ party where your inner thighs, arm pits or other body parts are the main course.
So, be prepared!
How to avoid chafing
Avoid clothing that is too lose or too tied.
Your backpack should not touch anywhere your bear skin.
For the touching body areas (groin, thighs, breast areas, nipples, arm pits, etc) you’ll need to think about an additional plan. Here are some key words to get you started:
- diaper rash cream (might stain your clothes)
- under summers (very good solution)
- slip shorts (very good solution)
- anti-chafe cream like Bodyglide (works for hikers usually and is not so messy as Vaseline)
This post is also available in: Dutch