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  1. #1

    Question Preventing skin infections? Is there a doctor in the house?

    This may have been brought up in other threads, but I've had no success in my searches. A medical confession: I'm prone to bacterial skin infections. I've had staph infections numerous times, that have always seemed develop in response to heavy sweat, poor hygiene and unwashed, dirty clothes. When I'm at home, I generally can manage to prevent anything beyond boils/carbuncles (as if that equals prevention).As you can imagine, it becomes really difficult to control infections on the trail. Can you, my forum friends, help me out? Do you have any pointers to share? How have you kept your skin clean in the backcountry? Any ideas as to how I could keep my skin/clothes clean, without adding too much weight to my pack, and compromising the health of the environment (that is, by scattering massive amounts of soapy water after a body wash)? Does anyone have some tips for prevention, other than what's obvious?
    "We can no longer live as rats. We know too much." -- Nicodemus

  2. #2
    Registered User peakseeker's Avatar
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    Use Benedryl liquid. Wet wipes may work. I also carry antibiotics just in case. Otherwise there are plenty of water sources along the trail to wash up as needed.

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    Well, if you're thru-hiking and only getting to town once a week it's tough. Mike Rowe has nothing on a thru-hiker, it is truly a dirty job! When you get into Vermont and Maine it's really bad, seems like you are always in mud and muck. I used Wet Wipes and hand sanitizer and tried to stay clean. I met a few people with infection that needed hospitalization. I had a small scrape on my ankle that just wouldn't heal. Every night I put Neosporin and a bandaid on it but by the next evening it was infected again. I did manage to keep the infection under control for the rest of my hike.
    "Chainsaw" GA-ME 2011

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    Try Noxema as both a lubricant for skin to skin contact and for keeping clean. Its gentle on the skin, bacteriostatic, cheap, greaseless, and available everywhere.

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    AT 4,000 miler, LT Blissful's Avatar
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    If I were you, I'd also start boosting your immune system with herbs and vitamins. Sounds like a deficiency in that area.



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    Registered User Mama T's Avatar
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    Is this MRSA we're talking about? Def agree with boosting your immune system and any of the many forms of antibacterial, including the Noxema idea. Also... depending on the length of your hike, you might want to consider if your doc will put you on low dose preventative antibiotics for the trip since you have such a problem. It's a double edged sword, using antibiotics that you may develop a resitance to through overuse, and the less chemicals in your system the better. certain clothing can be bacteria resistant too. Bactroban is excellent for an antibiotic ointment, but i believe it is script. (yes, I'm a nurse, but shhhh... off duty! lol)

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    I got a carbuncle the size of a golf ball a few years ago, right around the belt level, in front. I also have a couple for smaller spots on my right leg now and then, usually in the same spot. I think I am more prone by virtue of being older, or more overweight, or perhaps both. Not sure. I have also wondered if it might be related to blood sugar, if I am becoming borderline type 2. Again, not sure. My doctor says I'm full of **** half the time. Maybe that has something to do with it.

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    Clothing that is loose and varies where your belt line is might help. Let the skin breath. Rinse regularly when you can. Use soap or alcohol or whatever occassionally, but not to the point of killing all the good bacteria. You want your skin to be a healthy habitat for the good bugs, so they will crowd out all the bad bugs. Rinse. Hike. Repeat.

  9. #9

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    try taking Vitamin A and Zinc at night before going to bed... both are good for immune strength. The zinc "unlocks" vitamin A.

  10. #10

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    I've not been told it's MRSA... I'm still waiting to see a dermatologist. :-S I try very hard to maintain my immune system on the trail; I take a multivitamin/B-complex supplement, and try to eat healthily. I'm hesitant to go for oral antibiotics, since in the past they haven't worked well. Both a topical lotion and antibiotic wipes make good sense-- as does rinsing.
    "We can no longer live as rats. We know too much." -- Nicodemus

  11. #11

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    @sjd, my daily multiple has Zn/Vit A in it (plus, I follow a vegetarian diet, so I typically eat massive amounts of beta-carotene)-- but this is the first time I've heard that taking it before bed increases the effectiveness.
    "We can no longer live as rats. We know too much." -- Nicodemus

  12. #12

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    Bring something to freestanding to carry water away from its source as soon as you finish hiking and before you cool down, each and every day. Wash your body and then your hiking clothing, put on your camp clothing and hang out your hiking stuff. It won't dry but will at least drain. In the morning the last thing you do is put on your hiking stuff and truck on down the trail. It helps if you can arrange to walk up hill for a while to warm up quickly but that is optional. This also helps when hitch hiking because you don't kill the driver with your stench.

  13. #13

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    Washing clothes makes good sense-- the usual procedure is to place the dirty laundry in a gallon-size Ziploc bag, pour in enough water to cover it, and add in some castile soap (i.e., Dr. Bronner's). Then pulse it with your hands to scrub the laundry. Drain, squeeze out the excess water, and drip dry. In my semiarid home state (CO), this works well.
    "We can no longer live as rats. We know too much." -- Nicodemus

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    In less arid climes you can pick your days, and wash only a few items each day. I am in the habit of never washing socks with underwear. Another good time to wash clothing is when it is already wet. I have tried doing a final rinse with really hot water, and squeezing dry immediately, but it doesn't always make much difference. The only thing that should be slow to dry is wool layers, and if only half your clothing is wool, and you don't wash it all at once, you can dry it by wearing it. The other stuff should absorb as little water as possible, and should therefore dry easier, but if its synthetic I think it needs to be washed more often than wool. Underwear and socks more often than outer layers of course.

  15. #15

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    taking before bed doesn't increase it's effectiveness lol... i was simply just stating that is a time to take them. You can realistically take them whenever

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    Registered User Juice's Avatar
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    There's always good old Hibiclens soap.
    Buy the ticket, you take the ride. - Hunter S. Thompson

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