Infections from Blisters – A Serious Condition

December 3, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Health, Sports 

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips is a monthly email newsletter from her website at Backpack45.com. Susan and her husband Ralph have done hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail, the Camino de Santiago, and more. Every month I review her newsletter for tips and information that I can share with my readers. I encourage you to check out her website and subscribe to her newsletter.

Only once before in the 15 plus years of publishing an email newsletter and this blog have I shared information that has the potential to save a life. Please read on and take this information to heart.

In the December newsletter, Susan shared a story they experienced while hiking the John Muir Trail. They met a hiker with a sobering tale he shared with them. He and his wife had reached Palisades Lake when she was suddenly hit with nausea, fever, and weakness. Initially he thought it was exhaustion, but the next morning his wife was worse so they did a layover day. She was even worse the following day so they decided to exit at Bishop.

His wife became so weak that she could no longer walk – even without her pack and with help. She collapsed on the attempt to descend the Golden Staircase. Her vitals were a temperature of 105, blood pressure of 90/50, a resting pulse 135 – and she was unaware of her surroundings. He and two others tried to carry her out, but found it impossible because of the narrow trail. A helicopter was brought in and she was airlifted out in a basket to Deer Meadow, where she was put inside the helicopter and taken to the hospital.

The Alcorn’s met the husband as they were leaving the John Muir Trail over Bishop Pass. He was going out on the east side and then going to find a way over to the hospital in Fresno. We wondered for days how this had played out and were happy when they heard a subsequent report. After four days in the hospital on antibiotics, the lady was ready to be flown home – not entirely well, but no longer in danger. The hospital did not do tests to determine the cause, but only treated symptoms, so the cause of the problem was up for speculation. Her husband thought that an infection had probably entered her blood through blisters in her feet – most likely the source was open blisters and their soak in hot springs.

Susan says, This is a reminder of the importance of avoiding infection in any open sore – especially under trail conditions.

Cari's Blister Infected Foot

Cari’s Blister Infected Foot

I agree. In 2007 I wrote an article about another hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail who had to be evacuated out and spend a long time recuperating from a serious infection. Her infection was also caused by an infection through an open blister. This first photo shows her infected foot after she reached the hospital.

Bacteria causing the infection can come from your skin, from the environment, or from anything that gets inside the blister. The web spaces between the toes have more skin bacteria and open blisters here present an increased risk of infection. The second photo shows the redness common to an infection.

An Infected Blister

An Infected Blister

The take-away here is that we need to understand how to properly clean and care for blisters, have the right materials to patch them, and know the signs of infection.

All open blisters should be watched for redness, streaks up the leg, pus, heat to the touch, pain and/or swelling around the area, and fever. When any of these are present, prompt medical care should be obtained.

In my 2007 Fixing Your Feet newsletter I wrote, I think this is the most serious and important issue yet. It has in-depth focus on infections as a result of blisters. First read my editorial, Blisters Can Lead to Serious Infection, and then the feature article, My Infected Blister – Almost My Life! where Cari Tucker “Sandals” tells her story. I think you’ll agree with Denise Jones, the Badwater Blister Queen, who told me, ‘This is indeed sobering and shocking (literally). I think people need to see this because I do not think they take blisters very seriously!’ I urge you to fully digest the articles, then read the articles on Blood Blisters and Infections, Staph Facts and Cellulitis Facts.

Here’s the link to the July 2007 Fixing Your Feet newsletter with the articles.

 

Foot Care Video Ideas

January 29, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Foot Care, Foot Care Products 

Making a Foot Care Clinic video is one of my major objectives for 2012. I had the whole project laid out and wanted to know what others wanted to learn. Of course, I have my own ideas of what to teach, but I value the input of others. So a while back, I asked for suggestions. Here a summary of what I received.

Three Topics – I can think of 3 video topics that I would like to see covered. I’m always referring runners to your book. My experience at aid stations and answering runners’ questions tells me there are many runners that neglect basic foot care. While many runners are expert at caring for their feet, there are also many that are getting by but with the grace of God. I think a video as basic as demonstrating foot washing might be needed.
1. The Daily Routine: What the ultra runner should be doing every day to keep feet healthy and race ready.
2. The Race Routine: Preparing feet race morning or the evening before.
3. Race Emergencies: The emergency race supplies to be carried or stored in drop bags that allow the participant to be independent and successful with race foot care. Include special weather conditions. ~ Todd Baum

Blister Care – Definitely blister care, small ones to the nasty, start to finish when athlete rolls in, hows its done, tools, tricks, when to leave them alone, when to advise them to consider oh no stopping. ~ Wayne Kehr

Toe Blisters – I’d like to see a picture of toe blisters and how to tape them. The tape always seems to fall off from the toe, especially if it is the little toe. ~ Kris Martinovich

Taping – Taping would be #1–preventative. Various shoe lacing techniques to reduce pressure on tender top of the foot (skipping holes, etc.) would be helpful for hikers. ~ Susan Alcorn

Blister Popping – I’d like to see the correct way to pop a blister. ~ Patricia Carroll

Callus Care – I would very much like to know the proper treatment for reducing calluses on  the ends of my toes and the balls of the feet. I’ve tried scraping, cutting, and the Ped Egg, no luck, they keep coming back, and they hurt. ~ Margie Withrow

Hydration – A section explaining why managing hydration and electrolytes can help avoid issues in the feet! ~ George Miller

Toenail Care – How about proper nail trimming and filing of the nail tip “forward” so there is no ridging to catch sock? ~ Rocky Shon

Taping, Blister Care, Toenails and Calluses – I really love the idea of a Foot Care Video. Obviously, as you mentioned, various taping techniques are a “must” when it comes to the content. I would also like to see proper treatment of blisters both on the trail and after the run at home. Another topic could be best preparation of toenails as well as calluses for ultra events. I am sure that you had those topics already on your list, but I just wanted to make sure that they are indeed covered. ~ Harald Vaessin

Specific Taping Techniques – I’d opt for some demonstration of how to properly tape one’s feet with Leukotape. I taped some sore areas early on the John Muir Trail last August, found I couldn’t remove the tape a couple days later and ended up tearing, cutting holes in my toes to get the damn tape off!  I successfully completed the trail in 17 days but did suffer because of my apparent taping errors. ~ John Cusick

Plantar Fasciitis – Information on how to deal with plantar fasciitis. ~ Ed Werner

Honestly, a few of the ideas were ones that were not on my list. I envision this as a tool to teach athletes stuff that is hard to describe in print. Taping is a prime example. It’s hard to fully grasp the concept of taping toes without a series of pictures. That’s where a video will shine.

As this project evolves, my readers will receive updates and will have more opportunities for input. If you have not sent me you idea and want to be heard, please comment below.

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