Have you ever seen disturbing photos of runners whose shirts are stained with blood that looks like it is pouring from a pair of gunshot wounds?
The reason these runners are in agony is something called chafing. Chafing is the worst. Even minor amounts of this affliction can lead to discomfort and even pain.
Chafing is irritation to the skin caused by friction—usually skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin. This friction will eventually cause enough irritation that it will injure your skin, resulting in a rash, blisters or raw skin.
In minor cases, you may not even know chafing has occurred until you step into the shower, at which point the affected area will immediately start to feel like it is sunburned. Severe cases of chafing can be extremely painful, making movement difficult.
Chafing can happen with just about any activity that includes repetitive motion, but it is especially common during long-distance running and cycling. Some factors that may cause or contribute to chafing include ill-fitting clothing, clothing made from poor quality fabrics, and heat and humidity. Also, check out our post on “Why Do Your Nipples Hurt After Swimming? How To Deal With It!“. Spoiler alert, it’s chafing !!
Chafing may not be a laughing matter, but it is the subject of one of the funniest ever episodes of The Office television show. When many of the main characters decide to run a 5k race for charity, we find out that one of them is deathly afraid of nipple chafing.
Throughout the episode you see him obsessing about the potential hazards of running and its detrimental effects to his chest.
All laughing aside, chafing can be a real problem for athletes throughout many sports.
How do you protect your nipples when running? Make sure to wear quality materials that will carry moisture away from the skin. It is also a good idea to wear clean clothes rather than grabbing a dirty shirt off the floor.
For decades, distance runners have been using lubricating ointments such as Vaseline to avoid chafing. Many marathon aid stations will have a volunteer holding up a large piece of cardboard slathered with the stuff so athletes can reapply in the middle of the race without breaking stride.
Companies in the running industry have created several their own friction-reducing products such as BodyGlide (Amazon Link). Liberally applying a skin lubricant at the start of your run, workout or bike ride is key to keeping chafing to a minimum.
Cornstarch is another tried and true method for preventing chafing. Not only does cornstarch reduce friction in chafing prone areas, but it has the added benefit of absorbing moisture.
Can I Use Band-Aids to Cover My Nipples?
Using bandages like Band-Aids to cover your sensitive parts to protect them from chafing is certainly an option. Just be aware that the adhesive from the tape part of the bandage can also cause discomfort and skin irritation if left on for too long.
Many people rely on bandages to protect from chafing as well as to reduce the risk of forming blisters. There are bandages designed specifically for covering and protecting nipples or you can try a standard bandage, like the type you’d use on a cut on your finger. For example, check out NipEaze (Amazon link).
If you use adhesive bandages to avoid getting petroleum jelly on your clothes, do so sparingly. You’ll want to wear the bandage only as long as necessary.
It’s also best to wrap the bandage as tight as possible to avoid trapping additional moisture that could make things even worse.
Another possible downside of bandages is that the adhesive can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
How Do You Treat Chafing?
If you notice chafing beginning, gently pat the skin dry, and apply petroleum jelly to the affected area. If your clothes are rubbing your skin in an uncomfortable way, change into something that’s more comfortable.
To avoid infection, gently wash the affected area with warm water and mild soap. Avoid scrubbing, as this could make things worse. Once clean, pat the area dry without rubbing it and immediately apply petroleum jelly or a zinc oxide type cream to lock in moisture.
As long as they are protected from further damage, chafed areas should begin to heal themselves within a couple of days.
Why Is Cotton Clothing Bad for Triathletes?
When cotton gets wet, it stays wet. This is the worst possible equation when it comes to endurance sports. The longer you wear wet clothing, the heavier it gets and the more it can irritate the skin.
The better solution is wearing synthetic clothes for their sweat-wicking capabilities. These are more durable and they also excel a keeping you dry. Just be sure to wash your workout clothing often to prevent the stinky bacteria from collecting and multiplying on them.
Spandex and Lycra fabrics are well ventilated and feel smooth and comfortable to most athletes. Clothing consisting of recycled polyester made from plastic bottles is also available for those looking for a greener aspect to their wardrobe!
This type of clothing is breathable and dries fast. It’s also slightly heavier than some other fabrics, which is good for cold running conditions.
What Other Body Parts Are Prone to Chafing?
Inner thighs, armpits, and the groin area are additional areas of the body that are prone to chafing during exercise. Chafing commonly occurs in warm, moist areas.
The discomfort can be caused by repeated skin contact with fabric. However, chafing can also result from skin on skin contact. This is why many endurance athletes trend towards wearing tight fitting clothing rather than loose or baggy outfits.
Many people believe that chafing is a phenomenon that is unique to overweight individuals. Many thousands of fit endurance athletes around the world would be more than happy to dispute that claim. Chafing can and will happen to almost every athlete at some point in their life.
By using the tips mentioned in this article, you’ll be able to avoid the worst cases of this terrible affliction and you’ll also know the best way to treat chafing when it does occur!