Coastal Rowing Blisters

Rowing Blisters and how to treat them

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What happens if despite your best efforts you finish the row with a new set of blisters? We have collected some tips and tricks for you!

Rowing blisters and taped hands
Rowing blisters and taped hands

Rowing blisters are our most common injury, and we probably all know the pain if they come in contact with saltwater…
Let’s have a look at some of the theories and practices to treat them. 

    1. The blister is still raised and filled with fluid.
      1. Use a sterilised needle (you can use boiling water or medical alcohol but let it dry completely).
      2. Pierce the blister and drain the fluid.
      3. Press the blister flat and apply some antiseptic cream.
      4. Cover with a band-aid that will protect it from dirt but allows air to get in.
      5. Change the bandaid after about 12 hours.
    2.  The top layer of skin on your blister has already been torn or rubbed away.
      1. Hold your hands in hot soapy water as long as you can.
      2. This will clean the wound and also gently dry out the skin.
      3. Cover it with a band-aid.
    3.  The skin surrounding the blister looks red and inflamed.
      1. Treat as above and repeat it several times during the day.
      2. If it’s still looking “angry” after a couple of days, go and see your GP.
    4. The raw skin is cracked.
      1. Apply antiseptic cream (Vaseline works as well)
      2. Cover it with a band-aid to keep the skin moist and to help it heal.

Advice: I usually keep it moist during the day and leave it open to dry a little overnight. The skin can breathe, dry and heal. I also try to avoid contact with saltwater for a couple of days.

        1. The new skin has started growing but the old skin is torn, ragged and hardening around the edges. 
          1. Trim with sharp scissors or a razor blade (yes, we all have seen people using their teeth for this but our teeth are not really designed for it) until the surface of your skin is uniformly smooth.
        2. The blister is healed but has left a hard and raised callus.
          1. Use a file or sandpaper to reduce the thickness of the skin until the surface of your skin is uniformly smooth; this is easier after a few minutes of soaking in hot water.

Rowing blisters. Why not use alcohol (medical or even methylated)?

Sooner or later in your rowing career, some sadist is going to promote alcohol as the cure-all for blisters – here are the reasons you should stop listening to them:

      • Alcohol will kill living tissue – basically the opposite of what you want.
      • Alcohol will dry your skin really quickly and can cause cracks. Cracks heal worse than open skin.
      • Alcohol can harden the top layer of your skin. I have seen rowers where a blister has formed below healed skin.
      • Alcohol stings like billy-o. Didn’t the blister hurt enough already?

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