First aid for runners

Whether it’s a blister, a sprain or something more serious, here’s a no-nonsense, practical guide from the British Red Cross on how to deal with common running injuries

Knowing how to prevent and treat common running injuries and illnesses will help keep your training on track and your PB in sight. Here the British Red Cross brings us its simple first aid advice and shows us how you can use your running kit to combat your aches and pains:

Running on uneven ground may increase the likelihood of getting a sprain, which can cause pain, swelling and bruising.

Top tip: Ice the affected area.

Why it works: Ice is proven to reduce swelling, bleeding and fluid build-up in soft tissue injuries by reducing the blood flow to the area.

Running kit: Carrying a bit of spare change on your run can come in handy if you get injured. Your cash could buy a bag of frozen peas from the nearest shop which you can wrap in a bit of spare kit and apply to the injured area.

When you’re out on a run, it can be easy to lose track of time and forget to replace your liquids regularly. Headaches, dizziness and cramp are all signs of dehydration and can begin when you’ve lost as little as 1% of your bodyweight through fluid and salt loss.

Top tip: Drink fluids.

Why it works: Whilst drinking water will replace lost fluids, isotonic drinks are best for replacing lost salts caused by exercise.

Running kit: If water’s your drink of choice, carrying a couple of isotonic tablets on you run could give you the best of both worlds and allow you to add one to your water to rehydrate if need be.


Most runners will know the feeling of a sudden painful cramp, which often occurs in the large lower leg muscles, like the calf.

Top tip: Stretch the muscle.

Why it works: Cramp can happen during a particularly strenuous run due to a build-up of chemical waste products in the muscle, often caused by excessive loss of salts and fluid. Stretching will help to relax the muscle and accelerate the disposal of waste products in the muscles.

Running kit: Here’s where a running partner is handy; get them to help support your foot and flex it upwards towards your shin to stretch the calf muscle out. If they’re feeling particularly friendly, they can rub the affected area on the back of your calf.

Diabetic emergency
Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, can happen when a person with diabetes takes too much exercise or misses a meal. Knowing how to spot the signs are important, especially if you know your running partner has diabetes. Keep an eye out for excessive sweating, faintness, confusion or drowsiness.

Top tip: Give them something sugary to eat or drink.

Why it works: Sweets high in sugar help to raise the sugar content of the blood as quickly as possible and can prevent a hypoglycaemic attack from occurring.

Running kit: Jelly babies are perfect for helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and are also great for getting an extra hit of energy on longer runs.


Blisters are caused when the skin is repeatedly rubbed against another surface. Although they’re common, they’re easily avoidable and treatable

Top tip: Never burst a blister.

Why it works: The skin is an excellent barrier to infection but by bursting a blister you are breaking the skin and potentially introducing infection – worsening the injury and hampering future running.

Running kit: Blister plasters function as a second skin and provide more protection and cushioning than standard plasters. What’s more, they’re small, light and easy to pack on your run.

Trips and falls can be common, especially when you’re at mile 20 and you can’t feel your legs. A particularly bad fall could cause a serious bleed.

Top tip: Apply pressure to the bleed.

Why it works: Placing pressure on a wound will constrict the blood vessels manually, helping to stem any blood flow.

Running kit: This is where those sweatbands and extra base layers really come in handy. Whip them off and press firmly over the wound until the bleeding stops.

Make sure you have the first aid knowledge and confidence to use it on all your runs. Learn first aid with British Red Cross at or download the free First Aid app.


An interesting article for all those runners who are planning on doing a first aid courses in Canberra. We can help you build your first aid kit for anything. Make sure you book in now before the end of the financial year to save the tax for your business. 

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