Ask Dr. Burke: Saddle sores require TLC

Find out how to keep saddle sores at bay  Credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport
Dear Dr. Burke:
Once you have saddle sores what do you treat them with? It seems like once I get one, it doesn't go away unless I stop riding for a week or more.



Dear Paul:

First rule: Don't treat the sore like a typical abrasion and cover it with a salve or ointment. These applications may actually keep bacteria alive. I have the found application of Erythromycin Topical Gel very effective at the first sign of a sore. Unlike a salve, this prescription product dries in seconds.

If the sore is looking more like a boil, help it come to a head and drain by taking three hot baths a day lasting 15 to 20 minutes each. The warmth will also increase blood flow to the area, allowing your body's blood borne infection fighters to flood in and reduce inflammation.

A stubborn sore can be helped by what's known generically as a "drawing salve," made to bring a boil to maturity so that it will drain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for availability. It's applied to the sore, and then covered with an adhesive bandage. You should see results in a couple of days.

Drawing salve can be combined with an over-the-counter product called Boil Ease, which contains a topical painkiller that may reduce discomfort enough to let you continue riding.

In fact, saddle pressure combined with the effect of a drawing salve can help a sore discharge. You'll pull off your shorts and the bandage to find a bit of a mess, but the pressure will be gone and the sore will start healing.

Another effective product is Bag Balm, particularly for raw areas caused by chafing. Available at pharmacies and veterinary stores, Bag Balm was developed "to soothe a milk cow's irritated teats."

I'm not kidding. It works for irritated bike riders, too. In fact, dermatologist Bernard Burton, M.D., says, "When it's applied after your shower, it will usually clear up the problem overnight."

Be careful, though to learn how your body responds to this product. Some riders who have tried using Bag Balm as a daily crotch lubricant report an adverse skin reaction.

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