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First aid kit for helping others

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Hi - many of you will know that I am a Unitarian Franciscan and go to Camino a couple of times a year to offer first aid and pastoral care? Mainly because of that pesky Good Samaritan story that ends with the command "then go, Ye, and do likewise" (Luke 10:25-37).
W
ell, the beginning of the main pilgrim season is already upon us and around the world tens of thousands are planning and packing - right now! Visualise how many rucksack loads are currently spread out on a floor or bed with the virgin pilgrim standing there, scratching their head!
Now, I know that as part of this there is the issue of what to carry to look after oneself but I thought I would extend that thought into the possibility of helping others - so here is a rather rambling account of a small first aid kit, and some tips, for helping other pilgrims.

A first aid kit for helping others is a bit of a problem because it is a compromise, weight and bulk being the most important considerations. Really it is down to the individual.


As the first step is cleanliness, to make the wound/blister really clean, antiseptic wipes are a must, as are clean tissues to dry the area. If possible it is a good idea to get them (or you) to wash the feet first as, apart from cleanliness it removes the skin oils so that plasters stick properly.

Although when properly used by someone who knows how to look after themselves they work really well I no longer use compeed as I have seen too many problems with them as it is hard to make them stick properly unless the foot is clean, dry, and oil free, and also very difficult to remove where one has been stuck over an unclean wound that has become infected - a not uncommon sight. Another reason for good hygiene – stick a compeed over a few microbes and you set up a perfect petrie dish!
So I use fabric plasters, the type that have adhesive all the way round the centre pad. Then I may place a length of strip plaster, cut to size, to add extra cushioning, over the first plaster.


The blister formed because there was some form of rubbing or continuous pressure, as well as by dirty sweat – clean feet well creamed with clean socks is a good preventative way to go!
The plaster protects the wound, allowing it to heal, and the fabric strip on top adds a barrier between the skin and whatever it rubbed against. An alternative is to use a large fabric plaster, edged all round, as a top dressing, a final cushion.


Then, before you plaster, you have to flatten the blister – there are two schools of thought on this – leave the blister alone and cover it, and drain the blister and cover it. The thing is, most blisters in ‘normal’ life come from walking for one day, or a run, or new shoes. When the person gets home they shower, cover the blister, and then wear different shoes – simple. But the pilgrim is pounding their feet for hours every day, carrying a load, in the same footwear. If the blister is left full each footstep will pound it and the inner edges of the blister will widen through the pressure, making a larger and larger blister, so, for pilgrims, I believe that the blister should be drained. Never ever thread cotton through them! This allows an open sweating wound covered in sweaty socks that is just perfect for an infection!

I use disposable scalpel blades (No. 11 blade) as the blades allow me to cut a good but small ‘V’ shape at each end of the blister, which means I can gently press it flat with ease – needles don’t always make big enough holes – and you do have to get all the liquid out as by leaving some in a new blister may reappear after some more pounding. (by the way, although the British army do this, don’t remove the blister skin, leave it in place as a healing covering).
The good thing about using plasters is that one can give spare plasters to the pilgrim so that they can still shower and then replace. I give enough to get them to the next supermarket/pharmacy where they can buy their own.
In an ideal world you would wear latex gloves – but these are one-use and you would use lots of them! So clean your hands really well with a medical hand cleaner. Cleanliness at all times is key.
Again – people who thread cotton to keep blisters open are in error, it is a perfect way of introducing dirt into the wound.


So – my basic list: all easily replaceable in supermarkets and pharmacies in Spain .
A good hand cleaner for your own hands – medical one, a small bottle will do, or gel, as it goes a long way..
Antiseptic wipes – lots.
Tissues - and cotton wool if wanted. One can also carry moleskin and/or sheep’s wool, to give cushioning to a hot spot that has not yet formed a blister.
Some disposable scalpel blades or a couple of large needles – these can be re-used by boiling them or by washing in alcohol.
A tube of antiseptic cream – Germolene is good as it has a local anaesthetic too - or antiseptic iodine spray.
A variety of fabric plasters of all shapes and sizes (fabric as waterproof ones don’t adhere strongly enough) - the type that have adhesive all round the edges with a medicated island pad in the middle. Also butterfly shaped plasters as they work very well in between and on toes.
A variety of large plasters with adhesive all round to cover the first plaster and/or strip plaster. This is uncut plaster that comes boxed, usually in one metre lengths.
You could carry corn plasters - they are ring shaped cushion pads, adhesive on one side, which are rather good for separating toes that are being squashed together.
Not necessary really but you could carry spray plaster. It works well after cleaning a graze on the body as it seals it, stays for days, and allows people to shower.
You could carry cohesive bandage rolls. Very good for supporting knee ligaments, painful ankles, and so on. One must be careful not to put them on too tight (or too loose). Pilgrims can remove them for showering and then replace as they do not stick to the skin.
A pair of small scissors, tweezers, safety pins. Tick removal tool. (Scissors to cut the edges of large plasters so they can be pressed flat, without wrinkling on curved parts of the foot). An eye bath - one can get cooled boiled water from a kettle or carry specific sterilised water tubes.
You could take bandages; elastic compression rolls for twisted ankles, elbows, wrists, etc – these things do come up but the bandages are bulky – you could carry one or two and replace if used?
Also possibly a triangular bandage - for hurt arms, not really needed as you can tuck the hand into a shirt, or use their belt but good to have as when worn it warns other people of the situation and properly relaxes and comforts the pilgrim - also great for making a head bandage.
An emergency foil blanket - for those in shock, or out on Camino waiting for an ambulance.
You will also need some ziplock bags – great for sorting your items and keeping them clean and dry, but you will also need one to put the discarded wrappings and so on into, otherwise there will be bits everywhere! A small plastic lidded container for putting old blades into or to keep the needles in if using those, perhaps with a small amount of medical alcohol so they are cleaned as you walk.
Only carry over-the-counter medicines as one is not a doctor and they cannot be “prescribed”, only offered, and one must always check that the pilgrim is not allergic. If in doubt, perhaps due to language problems, don’t.
Some Paracetomol.
Ibuprofen (check they are not allergic) – you can get stronger ones in Spain than the uk 200’s.
Ibuprofen gel (for strains) – you can buy Voltaren Emulgel in Spain, a different active ingredient that works really well.
(I also carry tiny grip-seal bags so that I can squeeze a small amount into them so that the pilgrim can self medicate until they reach a pharmacy).
A small pack of Aspirin – if someone is having heart attack symptoms one to be chewed to powder, or if they are unable, one to be crumbled into the mouth.
A few max strength Lemsips (named Lemsip in the UK), they are Flu control Paracetomol + decongestant powders – gives symptomatic relief for those with chills, etc.
Non-Drowsy Hay-fever pills – (antihistamines) - also good, at double dose, for bedbug reaction.
Dioralyte sachets – fast replacement of body salts and liquid for those with diarrhoea or exhaustion or dehydration. A dehydration that one commonly sees in hot weather is where the pilgrim has been drinking vast amounts of water but getting weaker and weaker as they have been leaching out their electrolytes - these sachets are the “magic” answer to that.
I carry a small bottle of Olbas oil. Few drops on a tissue and then inhaled clears bronchial tubes and that ‘stuffed up’ feeling.
Get a good first aid manual and read it intensively before you go. The thing to remember is that first rule of first aid is “do no harm” – so if you are concerned about someone, or/and your own level of skill, take them to the doctor instead of trying to treat them. Of prime importance is to learn how to do CPR as you never know when someone will have a heart attack. Also the Heimlich manoeuvre for when someone is choking on lodged food.
There are Youtube videos and you can practise on a friend or your partner - it is really good to know how to do both of these - you may save a life.


Some tips – check the inside of the boots to see if there is a problem there that has caused the blister.
Also, blisters on/between toes are usually because the boot is too tight there. Get them to remove the laces and put them back but not using the first two or three sets of holes, this allows the boots to open at the front and flex at the toes. Alternatively make the laces really loose until the third or fourth eyelets and tie a half hitch knot at each one so that when the boot is tightened up the front section cannot tighten but remains loose.
Tell pilgrims not to tie their boots over-tight, and to take them off at least three times a day, socks too. Allows the feet to breathe, then put socks back on opposite feet, so that any rubbing points are removed. Then not to tie them too tight again. Foot size increases throughout the day, especially so for all-day walking pilgrims. Folk who do their boots up tight in the morning and leave them like that all day are giving themselves grief.
If someone has right size boots, ok socks, is doing them up properly, and still getting blisters then suggest that they pop into a supermarket and buy a few pairs of ultra thin socks to wear under their normal socks – this double socking allows the foot to move without rubbing – or, they buy a good cream and cover their feet every morning and evening to make them slick and slippy. – oh, and tell them never to shower in the morning, removes all the oils in the feet – not good.
If someone has small round translucent ‘blisters’ on their shoulders, back, neck, face that appear to be quite clear inside these will be bedbug bites. They need an antihistamine – double doses, repeated, of hay-fever tablets (non-drowsy) will help. If allergic reaction is severe get them to a doctor where they will be given a horse-syringe sized injection of antihistamine!


That is about it I think – if you think of anything I have missed do let me know!

and ....... Buen Camino!!
 
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Jennifer1959

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPP-SdC Oct/Nov (2013)
Kumano Kodo Japan (2016)
Portuguese Coastal Mar(2019)
CF Ap/May (2019)
Wow! What helpul, detailed, practical advice- THANK YOU SO MUCH David!
 

martin1ws

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Somport to Finisterre Jul-Aug 2018; Munich to Lindau (Germany) Sep 2020
Thank you very much for your post!

It is probably a good posting not only for helping others, but also a how-to for helping myself if I get into trouble on my first camino.

...
Dioralyte sachets – fast replacement of body salts and liquid for those with diarrhoea or exhaustion or dehydration. A dehydration that one commonly sees in hot weather is where the pilgrim has been drinking vast amounts of water but getting weaker and weaker as they have been leaching out their electrolytes - these sachets are the “magic” answer to that.
...
Do you see the "leaching out their electrolytes" by special symptoms? Or do you just speak with the pilgrim for diagnosing this?
Do you take Dioralyte sachets by yourself? Or do you take just a little bit more salt than usual?
 
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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
David, I had no idea! Brilliant! Well done.

I always end up helping others, and willingly share my supplies. On one Camino, another pilgrim who was an ER (A&E) nurse and I lanced, cleaned and butterfly-closed a nasty insect bite that had become infected on a third pilgrim, until the pilgrim could get to the next Centro de Salud to have the wound properly dressed or sutured, if need be.

Fortunately, I also carry normal courses of three different antibiotics with me, prescribed and dispensed to me for my personal use. In this case, the other pilgrim needed the protection more. I carry one AB for a middle ear infection, of which I get one or two annually, so I know the drill. I carry a second AB for a bronchial infection, as I am susceptible to bronchitis as well. Then I carry a third, different spectrum AB for puncture wounds that could get infected. I keep my tetanus protection up to date, just had a DPT booster in December...

In the instant case, we had alcohol wipes, sterile gloves, a cigarette lighter to sterilize a wicked sharp Swiss Army knife (small blade), antiseptic wipes and cream to clean-up and rudimentary bandaging materials to close the wound. We had enough alcohol wipes to wash down a stainless (inox) patio table and use that as the procedure theater. My nurse colleague pilgrim did the cutting and I did the nurse bit, handling the tools and materials. I finished by giving the pilgrim the necessary antibiotic ONLY after ascertaining that she had in fact taken this identical medication previously with no ill effects.

I note that the three of use laid out all our medical supplies to combine materials to have enough for this effort. But, that is what the Camino is all about. Help others, and they will help you.

I am glad to know you are out there David!
 

MyDestinationGalicia

Mark Auchincloss
Year of past OR future Camino
2020
Pilgrims can also go to the Centro de Salud (Heath Centre) at end/start of each stage and ask for a nurse (enfermera) to treat blister or similar minor ailment (doctor if it's more.severe). You need to show your European Community Health Card (E111) or travel insurance document for free treatment. The treatment you receive is normally always excellent and they normally send you on your way with some extra supplies.
 
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MikeyC

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF - September 2016
CF - April May 2017
Shikoku - October 2017
Kumano Kodo - October 2017
CF - 2019
Can I reinforce the benefit of pilgrims carrying electrolytes or oral rehydration solution. Imbibing vast quantities of water can, as noted, produce its own dangers. The worst I have felt on the Camino was on a 28C day when walking between Villadongas del Paramo and Hospital de Orbigo. We had stopped in Villadongas for a lunch break and then continued onwards alongside the N-120. The whole stretch runs parallel to this road and there is no shade. I started to feel light headed, my ability to walk in a straight line was deteriorating and I knew that I needed urgently to find shade. Fortunately, we spotted a concrete bus shelter on a side road and soon I was lying flat in the shade sipping on a 600ml water bottle mixed with electrolytes. It still took almost an hour before I fully recovered though.
If you do not have access to sports drinks or electrolytic powders stop at any bar and you can make your own homemade solution which I came across when I lived in Brazil (soro caseiro).
This is commonly used for cases of children's dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhoea and is recommended by the World Health Organization who even provide appropriate double ended measuring spoons in Brazilian Health Centres. The mixture is 6 level teaspoons of sugar and 1 level teaspoon of table salt mixed in 1 litre of water. (More precisely 20g sugar to 3.5g of table salt).
Shake well and as with electrolytes this should be sipped rather than gulped down.
The taste is quite neutral and should be no saltier than tasting your tears.
 

Nanc

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (Sept 2016)
SDC/ Finesterre/ Muxia (2016)
thank for for your service, and sharing wisdom
where in Spain do you dispose of used #11 blades?
N
 

SLOChick

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
May or September (2018)
Thank you so much for this information I am making note and adding items to my med kit!
When you say plasters do you mean bandaids?
 

lovetoread3

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances Abril 2018; Primitivo May 2018
You might want to add a small pad of paper & pen so you can write down information for the patient - name of medications he is to look for, what you've done, allergies, if any. I also suggest each person walking long treks carry a short list of medical information inside their passport (showing their medications, allergies, medical conditions, emergency contacts - all this info will be needed by any medical professional you end up seeing so have it at hand). In an emergency, every bit helps and if you're traveling solo, it may save your life.
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Can I reinforce the benefit of pilgrims carrying electrolytes or oral rehydration solution. Imbibing vast quantities of water can, as noted, produce its own dangers. The worst I have felt on the Camino was on a 28C day when walking between Villadongas del Paramo and Hospital de Orbigo. We had stopped in Villadongas for a lunch break and then continued onwards alongside the N-120. The whole stretch runs parallel to this road and there is no shade. I started to feel light headed, my ability to walk in a straight line was deteriorating and I knew that I needed urgently to find shade. Fortunately, we spotted a concrete bus shelter on a side road and soon I was lying flat in the shade sipping on a 600ml water bottle mixed with electrolytes. It still took almost an hour before I fully recovered though.
If you do not have access to sports drinks or electrolytic powders stop at any bar and you can make your own homemade solution which I came across when I lived in Brazil (soro caseiro).
This is commonly used for cases of children's dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhoea and is recommended by the World Health Organization who even provide appropriate double ended measuring spoons in Brazilian Health Centres. The mixture is 6 level teaspoons of sugar and 1 level teaspoon of table salt mixed in 1 litre of water. (More precisely 20g sugar to 3.5g of table salt).
Shake well and as with electrolytes this should be sipped rather than gulped down.
The taste is quite neutral and should be no saltier than tasting your tears.
Or you can find Aquarius drinks just about everywhere.
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
@martin1 - Do you see the "leaching out their electrolytes" by special symptoms? Or do you just speak with the pilgrim for diagnosing this?
Do you take Dioralyte sachets by yourself? Or do you take just a little bit more salt than usual?

As posted in a later post, MikeyC, a perfect illustration too! - one tends to see pilgrims dizzy, weak, and faint in hot weather for no apparent reason ... if one takes out sunstroke it seems to be electrolyte problems - great thing is that there are no negatives in taking them! I use a lot of salt anyway and in hot weather, for no reason at all really, I take two sachets a day.

@t2andreo- brilliant!! I particularly like the sanitising the whole table with alcohol wipes!! Bottle of Vodka next time if no alcohol wipes!

@Nanc - where in Spain do you dispose of used #11 blades? Good point! (excuse pun). My blades come in individual strong foil wrappers and I re wrap them in those, then, when I have a few, I wrap them again in what I can find - a folded cardboard drinks container or similar and then bin in a general waste bin that isn't going to be sorted for recycling.

@SlowChick (great name!) When you say plasters do you mean bandaids? No, I mean plasters, but I understand that certain ex-colonies and descendants of American rebels use the word bandaid (which sounds like a charity rock gig to me) :) - sure, of course I do!

@davebugg - if you add tincture of benzoin to your kit, that will multiply the adhesive strength of any bandaids, plasters, blister pads, etc - true, but as I use fabric plasters, to be changed regularly, it might make it difficult for pilgrims later on to replace - but I am going to test this idea on waterproof plasters (on myself in various places on my feet) and if it works, including showering - why, this may change how I do things as I would prefer a plaster that stays on for a few days before being renewed!

@lovetoread - You might want to add a small pad of paper & pen so you can write down information for the patient - name of medications he is to look for, what you've done, allergies, if any. I also suggest each person walking long treks carry a short list of medical information inside their passport (showing their medications, allergies, medical conditions, emergency contacts - all this info will be needed by any medical professional you end up seeing so have it at hand). In an emergency, every bit helps and if you're traveling solo, it may save your life.
Absolutely! Sorry, I should have mentioned that I carry a pad and pen to write various things down, such as the Spanish name for certain items - though as mentioned above, so may pharmacists speak English. And if one has specific intolerances or problems a note of these - in English and Spanish should certainly be carried in an accessible place, passport being a great place - also, blood group is good.

@Atrecil - Or you can find Aquarius drinks just about everywhere. This is true but, to me (personal opinion) they are just an expensive way of selling poison. The main ingredients are water and sugar, the sugar giving a short-lived and instant energy high. One would do much better drinking a glass of water and eating a banana. I may be terribly old-fashioned here but I detest this modern eating drinking thing that is advert and profit motivated.

Aquarius ingredients - largest first - Water, sugar, acidic correctors (citric acid and sodium citrate), aromas, flavor enhancers (sodium chloride, potassium phosphate and calcium phosphate), antioxidant ascorbic acid and stabilizers E-414 and E-445. Does anyone Really want to drink that???

Thanks for fab replies!
 
Last edited:

Rick of Rick and Peg

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
@Nanc - where in Spain do you dispose of used #11 blades? Good point! (excuse pun). My blades come in individual strong foil wrappers and I re wrap them in those, then, when I have a few, I wrap them again in what I can find - a folded cardboard drinks container or similar and then bin in a general waste bin that isn't going to be sorted for recycling.
Would pharmacies take the blades?

Thank you David. Both for your aid on the Camino and your posts on this forum.
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
[QUOTE="Rick of Rick and Peg, post: 605767, member: 51912"]Would pharmacies take the blades?[/QUOTE]

Good question - if they do minor 'repairs' on pilgrims they would have a safe disposal system.
 

Sixwheeler

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2013
The world is always a better place when David pops his head above the parapet and today's post is no exception. Good, simple, practical, sensible information and advice and I suspect that there will be very few people who can't learn something here.

Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what David says and you'll probably save yourself a spot of trouble somewhere, someday.

Thanks David and best wishes.
 
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Lurch

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
looking at 2018-2019
I am planning on being able to assist other pilgrims come October, though not to the level you are, Dave. Other than adhesive bandages, I plan on buying gel toe caps and similar items off of EBay. Been using them myself and they work. Have found out that the cheaper, China, ones work better than the made in USA ones do. The Chinese gel caps are thicker and last longer.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
@Atrecil - Or you can find Aquarius drinks just about everywhere. This is true but, to me (personal opinion) they are just an expensive way of selling poison. The main ingredients are water and sugar, the sugar giving a short-lived and instant energy high. One would do much better drinking a glass of water and eating a banana. I may be terribly old-fashioned here but I detest this modern eating drinking thing that is advert and profit motivated.
I mentioned Aquarius solely as a quicker, easier (and tastier) substitute for mixing a solution from sugar, water and salt. :)
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
I carry Nuun rehydration tablets. Found in a runner’s supply store or online, one tablet goes into a .5 liter bottle. It effervescences while going into suspension.

One drink daily, after several hours walking usually does the trick. Of course, one should drink adequate water as well.

In addition, I try to add oranges and bananas to my daily food intake.

After 3 ‘dirt naps’ on my 2015 Camino, I learned the hard way to recognize heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sun stroke even at moderate temperatures (@ 24-26 Celsius).

Hope this helps.
 

Tamsin Grainger

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés
De la plata
Hi - many of you will know that I am a Unitarian Franciscan and go to Camino a couple of times a year to offer first aid and pastoral care? Mainly because of that pesky Good Samaritan story that ends with the command "then go, Ye, and do likewise" (Luke 10:25-37).
W
ell, the beginning of the main pilgrim season is already upon us and around the world tens of thousands are planning and packing - right now! Visualise how many rucksack loads are currently spread out on a floor or bed with the virgin pilgrim standing there, scratching their head!
Now, I know that as part of this there is the issue of what to carry to look after oneself but I thought I would extend that thought into the possibility of helping others - so here is a rather rambling account of a small first aid kit, and some tips, for helping other pilgrims.


A first aid kit for helping others is a bit of a problem because it is a compromise, weight and bulk being the most important considerations. Really it is down to the individual.

As the first step is cleanliness, to make the wound/blister really clean, antiseptic wipes are a must, as are clean tissues to dry the area. If possible it is a good idea to get them (or you) to wash the feet first as, apart from cleanliness it removes the skin oils so that plasters stick properly.

Although when properly used by someone who knows how to look after themselves they work really well I no longer use compeed as I have seen too many problems with them as it is hard to make them stick properly unless the foot is clean, dry, and oil free, and also very difficult to remove where one has been stuck over an unclean wound that has become infected - a not uncommon sight. Another reason for good hygiene – stick a compeed over a few microbes and you set up a perfect petrie dish!
So I use fabric plasters, the type that have adhesive all the way round the centre pad. Then I may place a length of strip plaster, cut to size, to add extra cushioning, over the first plaster.


The blister formed because there was some form of rubbing or continuous pressure, as well as by dirty sweat – clean feet well creamed with clean socks is a good preventative way to go!
The plaster protects the wound, allowing it to heal, and the fabric strip on top adds a barrier between the skin and whatever it rubbed against. An alternative is to use a large fabric plaster, edged all round, as a top dressing, a final cushion.


Then, before you plaster, you have to flatten the blister – there are two schools of thought on this – leave the blister alone and cover it, and drain the blister and cover it. The thing is, most blisters in ‘normal’ life come from walking for one day, or a run, or new shoes. When the person gets home they shower, cover the blister, and then wear different shoes – simple. But the pilgrim is pounding their feet for hours every day, carrying a load, in the same footwear. If the blister is left full each footstep will pound it and the inner edges of the blister will widen through the pressure, making a larger and larger blister, so, for pilgrims, I believe that the blister should be drained. Never ever thread cotton through them! This allows an open sweating wound covered in sweaty socks that is just perfect for an infection!

I use disposable scalpel blades (No. 11 blade) as the blades allow me to cut a good but small ‘V’ shape at each end of the blister, which means I can gently press it flat with ease – needles don’t always make big enough holes – and you do have to get all the liquid out as by leaving some in a new blister may reappear after some more pounding. (by the way, although the British army do this, don’t remove the blister skin, leave it in place as a healing covering).
The good thing about using plasters is that one can give spare plasters to the pilgrim so that they can still shower and then replace. I give enough to get them to the next supermarket/pharmacy where they can buy their own.
In an ideal world you would wear latex gloves – but these are one-use and you would use lots of them! So clean your hands really well with a medical hand cleaner. Cleanliness at all times is key.
Again – people who thread cotton to keep blisters open are in error, it is a perfect way of introducing dirt into the wound.


So – my basic list: all easily replaceable in supermarkets and pharmacies in Spain .
A good hand cleaner for your own hands – medical one, a small bottle will do, or gel, as it goes a long way..
Antiseptic wipes – lots.
Tissues - and cotton wool if wanted. One can also carry moleskin and/or sheep’s wool, to give cushioning to a hot spot that has not yet formed a blister.
Some disposable scalpel blades or a couple of large needles – these can be re-used by boiling them or by washing in alcohol.
A tube of antiseptic cream – Germolene is good as it has a local anaesthetic too - or antiseptic iodine spray.
A variety of fabric plasters of all shapes and sizes (fabric as waterproof ones don’t adhere strongly enough) - the type that have adhesive all round the edges with a medicated island pad in the middle. Also butterfly shaped plasters as they work very well in between and on toes.
A variety of large plasters with adhesive all round to cover the first plaster and/or strip plaster. This is uncut plaster that comes boxed, usually in one metre lengths.
You could carry corn plasters - they are ring shaped cushion pads, adhesive on one side, which are rather good for separating toes that are being squashed together.
Not necessary really but you could carry spray plaster. It works well after cleaning a graze on the body as it seals it, stays for days, and allows people to shower.
You could carry cohesive bandage rolls. Very good for supporting knee ligaments, painful ankles, and so on. One must be careful not to put them on too tight (or too loose). Pilgrims can remove them for showering and then replace as they do not stick to the skin.
A pair of small scissors, tweezers, safety pins. Tick removal tool. (Scissors to cut the edges of large plasters so they can be pressed flat, without wrinkling on curved parts of the foot). An eye bath - one can get cooled boiled water from a kettle or carry specific sterilised water tubes.
You could take bandages; elastic compression rolls for twisted ankles, elbows, wrists, etc – these things do come up but the bandages are bulky – you could carry one or two and replace if used?
Also possibly a triangular bandage - for hurt arms, not really needed as you can tuck the hand into a shirt, or use their belt but good to have as when worn it warns other people of the situation and properly relaxes and comforts the pilgrim - also great for making a head bandage.
An emergency foil blanket - for those in shock, or out on Camino waiting for an ambulance.
You will also need some ziplock bags – great for sorting your items and keeping them clean and dry, but you will also need one to put the discarded wrappings and so on into, otherwise there will be bits everywhere! A small plastic lidded container for putting old blades into or to keep the needles in if using those, perhaps with a small amount of medical alcohol so they are cleaned as you walk.
Only carry over-the-counter medicines as one is not a doctor and they cannot be “prescribed”, only offered, and one must always check that the pilgrim is not allergic. If in doubt, perhaps due to language problems, don’t.
Some Paracetomol.
Ibuprofen (check they are not allergic) – you can get stronger ones in Spain than the uk 200’s.
Ibuprofen gel (for strains) – you can buy Voltaren Emulgel in Spain, a different active ingredient that works really well.
(I also carry tiny grip-seal bags so that I can squeeze a small amount into them so that the pilgrim can self medicate until they reach a pharmacy).
A small pack of Aspirin – if someone is having heart attack symptoms one to be chewed to powder, or if they are unable, one to be crumbled into the mouth.
A few max strength Lemsips (named Lemsip in the UK), they are Flu control Paracetomol + decongestant powders – gives symptomatic relief for those with chills, etc.
Non-Drowsy Hay-fever pills – (antihistamines) - also good, at double dose, for bedbug reaction.
Dioralyte sachets – fast replacement of body salts and liquid for those with diarrhoea or exhaustion or dehydration. A dehydration that one commonly sees in hot weather is where the pilgrim has been drinking vast amounts of water but getting weaker and weaker as they have been leaching out their electrolytes - these sachets are the “magic” answer to that.
I carry a small bottle of Olbas oil. Few drops on a tissue and then inhaled clears bronchial tubes and that ‘stuffed up’ feeling.
Get a good first aid manual and read it intensively before you go. The thing to remember is that first rule of first aid is “do no harm” – so if you are concerned about someone, or/and your own level of skill, take them to the doctor instead of trying to treat them. Of prime importance is to learn how to do CPR as you never know when someone will have a heart attack. Also the Heimlich manoeuvre for when someone is choking on lodged food.
There are Youtube videos and you can practise on a friend or your partner - it is really good to know how to do both of these - you may save a life.


Some tips – check the inside of the boots to see if there is a problem there that has caused the blister.
Also, blisters on/between toes are usually because the boot is too tight there. Get them to remove the laces and put them back but not using the first two or three sets of holes, this allows the boots to open at the front and flex at the toes. Alternatively make the laces really loose until the third or fourth eyelets and tie a half hitch knot at each one so that when the boot is tightened up the front section cannot tighten but remains loose.
Tell pilgrims not to tie their boots over-tight, and to take them off at least three times a day, socks too. Allows the feet to breathe, then put socks back on opposite feet, so that any rubbing points are removed. Then not to tie them too tight again. Foot size increases throughout the day, especially so for all-day walking pilgrims. Folk who do their boots up tight in the morning and leave them like that all day are giving themselves grief.
If someone has right size boots, ok socks, is doing them up properly, and still getting blisters then suggest that they pop into a supermarket and buy a few pairs of ultra thin socks to wear under their normal socks – this double socking allows the foot to move without rubbing – or, they buy a good cream and cover their feet every morning and evening to make them slick and slippy. – oh, and tell them never to shower in the morning, removes all the oils in the feet – not good.
If someone has small round translucent ‘blisters’ on their shoulders, back, neck, face that appear to be quite clear inside these will be bedbug bites. They need an antihistamine – double doses, repeated, of hay-fever tablets (non-drowsy) will help. If allergic reaction is severe get them to a doctor where they will be given a horse-syringe sized injection of antihistamine!


That is about it I think – if you think of anything I have missed do let me know!

and ....... Buen Camino!!

As I am a Shiatsu practitioner, always offering to support others as I walk, if I can, I use my hands. So much easier to transport!
To date on the VdlP (I am in El Cubo) I have treated shin splints, Lower leg pain, sore shoulder and general malaise / sore neck. Luckily the treatments seem to have helped.
 

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