Pilgrims unfortunately suffer the same coughs, colds and stomach upsets as anyone else. There are pharmacies in all the towns and in most of the larger villages for advice and medicines for minor ailments. If you feel very unwell please ask the hospitalero or pharmacist to direct you to the local clinic or hospital. In case of emergency call 112.

Please note the advice here is very general; if you have specific medical conditions that need special management or are allergic to or cannot take any of the over-the-counter medicines mentioned or have any concerns at all about your health, this advice may not be suitable for you and you should take professional advice from your doctor before starting your Camino.

The main pilgrim-specific ailments are:

Blisters: Your feet need proper care and attention every day to keep you walking comfortably.

  • You should prepare your footcare regime before you set out on pilgrimage. Choose well-fitting boots or walking shoes and break them in. Decide what type of socks or combination of sock layers you will wear and try them out before your Camino. Also decide whether you want to coat your feet with silicon-based preparations, vaseline or sports products like Bodyglide to prevent friction.
  • Don’t have a pedicure just before a Camino as soft feet may be more prone to blisters.
  • Wash your feet well every day, dry thoroughly and try to leave them exposed to the air as much as possible in the evening. Keep your nails trimmed and treat any fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Wearing flip flops or crocs in the showers will limit your exposure to such infections.
  • Avoid walking with wet feet. If your feet get wet, dry out your boots as best you can and change into dry socks before continuing.
  • Some people air their feet and change socks when they stop for a rest. Do what works for you.
  • If you do develop hotspots, gel dressings like Compeed, lambswool or zinc oxide tape work very well at protecting the sore areas.
  • The general medical consensus seems to be that blisters should be left alone (since the unbroken skin acts as a barrier to infection) and simply covered with a protective dressing before you start walking again. Larger blisters may have to be padded with a cushioned dressing of some sort that is taped in place.
  • Very painful blisters that prevent you from walking may have to be drained with a sterile needle, cleaned and treated with antiseptic and dressed. This may be best left to a medical professional to avoid risk of infection. Dressings for broken blisters should be changed daily.  If you have diabetes you should always seek medical advice for foot injuries of any sort.
  • If you do develop very painful blisters, a rest day can work wonders.
  • There are as many different opinions on types of boots, socks, anti-friction methods and dressings as there are reasons for going on Camino. Good outdoor shops should be able to advise you or visit the CSJ office to talk to experienced pilgrims. You can also check out Ivar Rekve’s Pilgrim Forum for footcare discussions.

Dehydration and Sunburn: Use sunscreen, wear a sunhat and cover the back of your neck with a scarf or shirt collar. Sunglasses and UVA resistant clothing also help. Try to avoid walking in the hottest part of the day. Drink water before you leave in the morning, keep drinking regularly throughout the day, don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol. If you start to feel tired and headache-y and begin to pass smaller amounts of more concentrated urine, stop walking, rest somewhere cool and shady and rehydrate with water and if possible an electrolyte drink or oral rehydration salts. If you start to feel very unwell, urgent medical advice should be sought.

Sprains: Wearing boots with suitable ankle support should help prevent the most common sprains i.e. twisted ankles. If you do suffer anything other than a very minor injury it is wise to seek medical attention.

Tendonitis: Correctly fitted boots, proper hydration and stretching before and after exercise help to prevent muscle and tendon strains. Also, try not to push yourself too hard in the first few days, as most pilgrims with tendonitis develop this after their first week of walking because they are going too far, too fast. If you develop aches and pains that you cannot easily shake off you should get this checked out by a medical professional. Please note there are various physiotherapists and other practitioners offering sports massage along the Camino francés.

Insect bites: Hydrocortisone cream should soothe itchy bites, if you have an allergic reaction to bites antihistamine tablets may help, a pharmacist will be able to advise you on suitable treatment.  If you suspect you have been bitten by bedbugs, please see our section on Bed bugs on the Camino for advice about what to do. If you feel very unwell seek medical advice.

For more information on the above topics, or any topic not covered in our FAQ, further information and discussion can be found on the Pilgrim Forum.