Should I pop my blister?

2 minute read
Originally posted here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/health-you-asked/should-i-pop-my-blister

If you’re someone who likes to hike, bike, garden, run or do pretty much any physical activity, you’re likely quite familiar with getting blisters.

These fluid-filled skin bubbles can hypothetically form anywhere on your body but tend to form in places with a thick stratum corneum (the outermost layer of your skin) like the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. They are the result of an object (like a boot or a shovel handle) applying a force on our outer layer of skin, causing it to shear or split from the inner layers.

The space created by this skin split is then filled with fluid due to hydrostatic pressure. The fluid is usually clear and similar to blood plasma (although contains less protein) but if the skin split goes through several layers, the blister can fill with blood instead.

Moist skin is more likely to generate blisters than wet or dry skin, thanks to the forces of friction. When skin is wet, the water can act as a lubricating agent between an object and your skin. Similarly, when skin is dry, repeated rubbing against dry skin causes exfoliation and the buildup of a thin layer of dead skin cells that serve as a lubricant. But when skin is moist the dead cells are stuck to the skin and are unable to act as lubricants.

What should you do when you get a blister? Ideally, nothing. Blisters take roughly 7-10 days to heal and usually leave no scar. However, they can become infected if exposed to bacteria. If you don’t pop a blister, it remains a sterile environment, virtually eliminating any risks of infection.

But, if a blister is somewhere it cannot avoid being popped, or if it’s painful, draining it (carefully!) is an option. Preferably, have a medical expert drain it for you, but either way, make sure not to tear off the top of the blister! It serves as a biologic dressing over the wound and helps to keep it bacteria-free.

Whether you pop it or not, you can cover your blisters with a bandage to help cushion it, but topical antibiotics aren’t necessary. You could, however, always try an unconventional approach like covering your blisters with cyanoacrylate, or super glue! At least one study has found it more effective at reducing pain from blisters in soldiers and praised its ability to stay on for many days at a time

Can Nike’s New Shoes Really Make You Run Faster?

Photo make by Ada McVean
Originally posted here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know-technology/can-nikes-new-shoes-really-make-you-run-faster

A New York Times’ study of 500,000 race times, set wearing Vaporflys and other shoes, confirmed Nike’s claims. They found that Vaporflys allowed a runner to run 1% faster than the next-fastest shoe, and 3-4% faster than a similarly skilled runner running in different shoes.

These results, taken from race entries on the app Strava, show that runners were more likely to set a personal record when wearing Vaporflys (though not quite as likely as those wearing Nike Streak shoes). Runners were also more likely to run faster when switching to Vaporflys and complained of less leg fatigue.

So, what’s so great about these shoes? Carbon fibres. Each sneaker features a carbon fibre plate in the midsole which absorbs and releases energy, throwing the runner forward with every step.

Since the shoes don’t contain any springs or elastics, they’re not likely to be banned from future sports competitions. But given their $250 price tag, don’t expect to see me wearing them anytime soon.

Why Do We Yawn When We Exercise?

Originally posted here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know-health-general-science/why-do-we-yawn-when-we-exercise

For a while I thought I was the only one trying to ‘swallow my head’ (as my Nana used to say) while running, but a google search today told me I wasn’t alone. Many people suffer from the constant yawning I experience as soon as I do anything remotely physically active, from running to biking to even walking uphill. So why do we yawn when we exercise? Why do we yawn at all?

Well, yawning is a touch of a mystery. Even fetuses can experience yawns (click here to see that), though I’d doubt they’re doing so due to physical activity.It was once thought that animals yawned to increase the oxygen in their bodies, especially in their brains, but studies giving patients more or less oxygen found it did not effect the frequency of yawning. It is also theorized that yawning is used to keep organisms alert, an idea that explains why yawns are contagious- to remind other nearby animals to stay alert as well. In some animals, notably dogs, yawns are used to communicate anxiety or nervousness.

Another theory is that yawning is another way for bodies to thermoregulate, via the action of neurotransmitters. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the regulation of skin blood flow, and the thermoregulation this blood flow does. Increases of serotonin have been shown to increase body and brain temperatures, a change that causes the body to trigger more yawns, in an attempt to cool itself. The effects of serotonin on thermoregulation are especially obvious in the case of patients who suffer from serotonin syndrome, a condition caused by an excess of serotonin in their systems, usually from taking several serotonin-affecting drugs in tandem. Some of the biggest signs of serotonin syndrome are hyperthermia, shivering, sweating and vasoconstriction. This process is also obvious to SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or SNRI (selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) users who experience a relatively (~11%) common side effect of the medications- excessive yawning. While the users may not be aware of it, the increased serotonin levels in their body increases its temperature, and therefore it’s yawn rate. Case studies have shown patients to experience as many as 200 yawns per day! 

Less innocently however than heat or medication induced yawns are yawns as a clinical symptom. The main reason we yawn consciously is to relieve pressure in our skulls, like when you try to ‘pop your ears’ on an airplane, so an increased rate of yawning can be a body’s attempts to relieveintracranial hypertension (too much pressure on the brain), migraines, or even heart or kidney problems. So if you’re not warm, taking SS/SNRIs, sleepy or anxious, and are experiencing excessive yawning, it may be worth mentioning to your doctor. Finally at least my mystery is solved; Run fast, get warm, start yawning. Maybe I should try running in the winter?