Silks can appear to be soft and delicate but we all know they don't feel that way! They can cause bruising, burns and scrapes.
The most uncomfortable of them all, silk burns. No matter how careful we are, there are some tricks that just burn no matter what we try! Some of us wear them as badges of honor along with our aerial bruises to display our badassery:
“Omg how did you get that scrape on your arm/back/foot/other?!”
“Oh this old thing? Just a casually epic double-slack-ginger-salto-ringo-star-drop I did yesterday from 20 feet in the air.”
As cool as they can be, they also can be quite painful, and it’s important to be mindful of them to avoid infection.
[anyone else totally forget about that burn you got in class until you jump in the hot shower, eeeek!]
So what exactly are they? Fabric/rope/aerial apparatus burns are caused by the material rubbing against the skin, which produces friction that results in abrasion. This can show up as redness, blisters, or even bleeding. Common areas where aerialists get burned are the lower back, the armpit area, and feet.
Usually fabric burns will only damage the surface of the skin, and will generally heal on their own with time. A minor burn may heal within several days, while a more serious burn can take weeks or even months to heal completely.
Here’s how to take care of a first-degree fabric or rope burn:*
Wash your hands to limit bacterial spread.
Run cool water over the burn for several minutes.
Gently pat the burn dry after washing it.
Assess the wound for size and depth:
First degree burns only damage the top layer of skin, while second and third degree burns damage tissue past the first layer of skin. If the burn damages tissue beyond the top layer of skin, or if the burn is larger than 3 inches in width, you should seek professional medical care.
If it is a first degree rope burn, apply a topical antibiotic cream (like Neosporin), topical aloe, or a thin layer of petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) over the burn to help prevent infection. Jill's fave option is Lucas Papaw Ointment.
Cover the burn with a dry piece of gauze or a bandage.
While the burn is healing, keep it clean and covered for the next few days/weeks until it has properly healed. Replace the bandage or gauze whenever it gets wet or dirty. When replacing the bandages or gauze, wash the burn with cool water, and then reapply the topical treatment before replacing the bandage or gauze. When going out in the cold or in the sun, protect the burned area by wearing clothes/shoes/hats that cover the area.
If the burn lasts more than a couple weeks, consider contacting your medical provider. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse, if you have symptoms of infection such as increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the burn, if the burn starts emitting pus (we know, gross), or if you develop a fever.
Occasional fabric and rope burns can be hard for aerialists to avoid completely when repeating skills over and over, and especially as you start doing more advanced skills. However, there are some things you can do to avoid getting them:
1. Avoid sliding your hands down the fabric or rope, and always descend hand-over-hand.
2. Before doing any trick, assess what part of your body may be burned, and wear a protective layer that will cover the skin on that area. If you're an aerial teacher who is teaching newcomers, it's your job to inform them! Some examples include:
Tuck in your shirt or wear a back warmer for anything that may burn your belly, low back, back of your knees (slack drops are famous for causing nasty burns)
Wear full ankle length leggings (not capris or shorts)
For certain skills wear long sleeves to protect armpit and arm burns
Wear socks when crocheting your feet over and over. (When crocheting your feet, consider sickling instead of flexing to prevent burns on the tops of your feet. We like to think of this as your foot hugging the fabric.)
Burn baby burn, disco inferno (keep on signin' if you know the song)! Keep this post handy for the next time a silk burn makes it your way!
*We are not medical professionals. All of this is strictly informational, and should not be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. This is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for your physician, or other medical professional’s recommendations.