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Whether you’re training for a charity marathon or out doing your morning run here are some essential first aid tips to help you with some of those common injuries or illnesses sustained from vigorous running.




1. Blisters

Blisters are fluid-filled bumps that look like bubbles on the skin. They are caused by excessive friction or pressure on the skin—such as your trainers rubbing on your feet. If you feel friction while you’re exercise, it is best to stop and tape the exposed area to prevent blister formation.


What you need to do:

  • Put on clean protective gloves to minimise infection risk.
  • Clean the blister area with saline. Do not break the blister.
  • Cover with a sterile non-adhesive dressing.
  • Apply surround padding and tape.
  • Seek medical aid if the area becomes reddened, warm or painful.


2. Muscle cramp or stitch

Muscle cramps are painful spasms or abnormal muscle contractions. There are many possible causes, including overuse, fatigue, small muscle tears, dehydration or poor blood supply to the area. Overexertion or fatigue may result in a cramp felt in the lower chest region, behind the bottom of the ribs. This is commonly known as a ‘stitch’.


What you need to do:


Muscle cramp

  • Ask the patient to stop the activity and rest in a cool place.
  • Gently stretch the affected muscle.
  • Massage the muscle gently if this helps to relieve the pain.
  • Apply a cold pack.
  • Give the patient cool water to drink.


  • Ask the patient to rest and breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Seek medical aid if the condition does not settle promptly.


3. Nipple bleeding

Known as ‘Jogger's nipple’, nipple bleeding is common among runners. It is caused by friction from the repeated rubbing of exercise gear on the upper body, against the nipples during a prolonged period of exercise.


What you need to do:

  • You can prevent nipple bleeding by covering nipples with an adhesive dressing or petroleum jelly before you go for a run.
  • If the nipples bleed, wash and dry carefully and cover with an adhesive dressing.


4. Knee injuries, sprains and strains

Knee injuries, sprains and strains are common for those who do long distance running. Injury to the knees can build over time, or may result from a fall or direct blow to the knees. If your knees are hurting from repetitive running, stop and rest.

If you have sustained a knee injury, strain or sprain, use RICE.


What you need to do:

  • Rest – rest the patient and the injured part
  • Ice – apply an ice pack or cold pack for 15 minutes every 2 hours for 24 hours, then for 15 minutes every 4 hours for 24 hours
  • Compression – apply a compression bandage firmly to extend well beyond the injury
  • Elevation – elevate the injured part

Seek medical advice, if pain persists, before any further exercise. Immediate first aid has been shown to limit swelling, pain and loss of function, which also shortens recovery time.


5. Dehydration

Dehydration is normally controlled by sweating. However, during excessive exercise you may become too dehydrated to sweat and your body temperature will rise quickly and dramatically. You may develop heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke which is the most serious form of heat-related illness.


If you feel hot, exhausted and dizzy, have a headache, are thirsty and feeling nauseous, and have a rapid, weak pulse, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion.


What you need to do:

  • Move to a cool place with circulating air.
  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Remove unnecessary clothing, and loosen any tight clothing.
  • Sponge with cold water.
  • Drink cool water.
  • Seek medical aid if the patient vomits or does not recover quickly.


Heat stroke is potentially life-threatening, so immediate first aid is needed. The runner will have a high body temperature, flushed, dry skin, a pounding pulse, headache, nausea and vomiting, faintness or dizziness. The runner may be confused and may even lose consciousness.


What you need to do:

  • Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
  • Move to a cool place with circulating air.
  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Remove almost all clothing, and loosen any tight clothing.
  • Apply a cold pack to areas of large blood vessels (neck, groin and armpits) to accelerate cooling.
  • If possible, cover with a wet sheet and fan to increase air circulation (stop cooling when body feels cold to the touch).
  • If fully conscious and is able to swallow, give them cool water to drink.


Prepare to prevent

  • Wear light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing for your run or during any physical exertion. Include a hat on your head if outside during sunny days.
  • Thirst is the best guide to how much fluids to take. Drink fluids regularly during your run. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of fluids in a short period.
  • Schedule your run or daily job in the early morning or late evening to avoid the heat of the day.
  • If you’re going to participate in a running event, allow some weeks to prepare your body before the competition
  • If you’re suffering from a viral illness such as the flu or bad cold, avoid vigorous exercise.


By following these tips you will be able to confidently treat the most common occurring injuries on you next run.  The best treatment is prevention. It has been estimated the 30% of sport-related injuries can be prevented.1  With adequate preparation and training, appropriate stretching, warm-up and cool-downs, you can continue running injury free.


To learn more about how you can treat and prevent injuries, complete a St John Ambulance First Aid course today.





Disclaimer:  Advice provided in this article is general in nature.  St John Ambulance (Qld) recommends  seeking  medical advice for  ongoing or pre-existing injuries before undertaking rigorus  running schedule.



  1. St John Ambulance Australia Inc. Australian first aid 2014, page 287.
  2. St John Ambulance Australia Inc. Emergency first aid 2016.
  3. ANZCOR Guideline 9.3.4. Accessed 31/5/2017
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