Dressed to Drive

By on September 7, 2010
RoadKing Mag

With all the things a driver has to worry about, what to wear probably falls at the bottom of the list. But what if your clothes are actually making you sick? The fit and fabric of some garments can lead to health problems, but with just a few minor adjustments you could find yourself sitting more comfortably.

Pants and belts

That chili-cheese dog you grabbed at your last stop may not be entirely to blame for the heartburn or stomach pain you’re experiencing. It could be your pant size. Tight waistbands put pressure on the stomach and can actually force stomach acids to back-up into the esophagus. Symptoms include a burning in the chest and throat along with a bad taste in the back of the mouth. Pressure can slow digestion too, causing an upset stomach and constipation.

Those old work pants might also leave you breathless. Increased pressure around the waist can prevent the lungs from fully expanding. The result is shallow, poor quality breathing, leading to hyperventilation and lightheadedness.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, meralgia paresthetica, a condition caused by compression of the nerves in the thigh, is more common in sedentary jobs like trucking. Sitting for long periods of time in tight pants can cause numbness, tingling or burning along the outer thigh. Choosing pants that are a size bigger or a looser cut allows better movement. You also might want to stop storing your wallet in your back pocket. Sitting on a bulky wallet is linked to muscle spasm and sciatica, pain caused by compression of the sciatic nerve.

Keep it dry

Heat and perspiration are another challenge drivers face. Sitting in damp clothes is not only uncomfortable, it can lead to rashes and skin irritation in delicate areas. Bacteria and fungi thrive in warm, moist areas like the groin or underarm, and prolonged exposure to moisture can break down the skin’s protective barrier. “I recommend loose, breathable clothing that keeps moisture away from the body,” says John Abraham, M.D., medical director for Orion Health Care at Prime, Inc. in Springfield, Mo.

Since some individuals experience skin reactions to synthetic fabrics, he believes cotton is a good choice. Clothing labeled as moisture-wicking absorbs sweat and pulls it away from the body to keep skin drier. “This type of clothing is becoming more affordable and available,” says Abraham, “and any little bit helps.” When it’s not possible to shower, he suggests using antifungal and antibacterial wipes in areas prone to develop a rash.

Stepping out

Legs and feet may also require attention. Mark Hartman, D.P.M., a podiatrist with Trimark Physician’s Group in Fort Dodge, Iowa, says swelling is a common complaint among drivers. He recommends a light compression sock to lessen swelling in legs and help prevent blood clots. Tightest at the ankle, the stretchy socks become looser as they move up the leg, helping to improve blood flow. Changing socks daily and keeping feet dry can help prevent athlete’s foot fungus and other infections.

Shoes should have good support and allow the foot to breathe. Although some foot problems require orthotics or inserts to correct, Hartman believes tennis shoes are a good choice for most drivers. “Wearing supportive tennis shoes can eliminate the need for inserts in the shoe,” he says. Try on shoes before buying to ensure they fit well and offer good arch support.

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