Most Common Hiking Injuries and First Aid Tips

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For outdoor lovers, hiking is usually a lot of fun. However, it also comes with some risks. Being out in the wilderness for extended periods of time can make you more prone to certain ailments. While anything can happen while out in the wilderness, these are some of the most common hiking injuries that occur. Remember, these first-aid tips are general guidelines. Having a well-stocked first aid kit should be an essential part of your gear, and it’s always smart to consider taking a Wilderness First Aid course to fully prepare you for injuries on the trail.

1. Dehydration

Dehydration can be incredibly dangerous, however, it’s also completely preventable. While hiking or performing strenuous activity, drinking fluids, preferably water, should always be a top priority, especially in warmer weather. Water is essential to maintain your body temperature, carry nutrients to vital organs, and remove waste from your body. Without enough water in your system, you’re more likely to become dehydrated, overheated, and fatigued.

2. Pre-hydrate

A great way to prevent dehydration during a hike is by pre-hydrating. The day before your hike and leading up to your departure, drink more water than you normally would to prepare your body with extra fluids for your hike.

3. Drink Water Often

Bring enough water for your hike. The average adult needs about 3-4 liters of water a day. However, when hiking, you should expect to drink more often. Try to remember to take frequent breaks to drink water throughout your hike, not only when you’re thirsty. Thirst is often a sign you’re already becoming dehydrated. A hydration pack is a great way to carry an adequate supply of water and allows hands-free, easy access to water.

4. Sports Drinks

While it’s best to avoid sugary drinks while hiking, sports drinks or rehydration sachets are a great way to rehydrate your body with essential electrolytes, sodium, and minerals it loses during physical activity and sweating. It’s also best to avoid any caffeine or alcohol the day of your hike as these types of fluids dehydrate you.

5. Dehydration First Aid

Thirst, headaches, fatigue, dark urine, and muscle weakness are all signs you may be dehydrated. If you become dehydrated during your hike, find a shaded area to rest and drink plenty of fluids. You can also apply a cool, wet cloth to your skin to reduce your body temperature.

6. Sunburns

We’ve probably all had a sunburn at one point in our lives and know how painful it can be. Sunburns are caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays and even on the cloudiest of days, you can still get a sunburn. The sun is strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so it’s important to avoid direct sun during those hours if possible. Too much sun exposure can also increase your risk of getting melanoma.

That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself from the sun while outdoors. And if you didn’t already know, hiking at higher altitudes, UV exposure increases, making you more prone to the harmful effects of UV rays. However, sunburns are easily preventable with the right precautions and gear.

7. Apply Sunscreen

Even on cloudy days, it’s important to always apply sunscreen before you go outside and reapply at least every two hours. The two main types of sunscreen are zinc-based sunscreens and chemical ones. Zinc-based are highly recommended as they tend to be more sweat and water-resistant, making them more effective while hiking, not to mention they’re a more natural option. It’s recommended to use SPF30 or higher for maximum sun protection.

8. Wear Sun-protective Clothing

Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and long sleeve shirts and pants are another great way to protect yourself from the sun. Many brands also create clothing with UV protection. Just remember to apply sunscreen to the areas of your body that are exposed.

9. Sunburn First Aid

If you do get a sunburn, move to a cool, shaded area, drink plenty of fluids, and apply cool water to the affected skin. Do not pop any blisters. Then apply aloe vera or a soothing sunburn cream and cover the burned area with loose clothing.

10. Blisters

Small but mighty, the all too common blister is intensely painful and can quickly turn a great day in the outdoors into a miserable trek of torture. The good news is that blisters don’t have to be inevitable. With the right gear and a few precautions, blisters can be easily prevented.

11. Invest in High-Quality Footwear

High-quality footwear should be a top priority if you’re an outdoor lover. A sturdy, well-fitted hiking shoe not only makes your hike more comfortable but will also prevent injuries like strains or sprains as well as blisters. However, it’s so important to break them in before a big hike. New shoes are often the culprit of blisters. In addition, a good quality sock is also important.

You want well-fitting socks that are high enough to prevent your boot or shoe from rubbing against your skin, have a little padding for both comfort and warmth and are made with a moisture-wicking fabric that will keep your feet dry.

12. Tend to Hot Spots

Hot spots are red, tender areas that are caused by friction and essentially signal the start of a blister forming. If you tend to these hot spots early, you can actually prevent them from becoming full-on blisters. If you feel your shoe rubbing on an area of your foot, remove your shoe and apply a moleskin bandage or piece of athletic tape over the area to minimize friction. Swapping out sweaty socks for clean dry ones can also help.

13. Blister First Aid

Unfortunately, blisters can happen to the best of us. If you do get a blister during your hike, there are some things to do to make your journey a little less painful and prevent it from getting worse. A donut-shaped blister bandage or moleskin can be placed over the area to reduce further friction and protect the fluid-filled blister. 

For larger blisters, however, sometimes it may be better to pop them to avoid it from happening in your shoe allowing dirt and debris to enter it. First, clean the blister with antiseptic or soap and water. Then, gently pop the blister with a flame-sterilized needle and soak up the fluid with gauze. Once dry, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a blister bandage kept in place with athletic tape or a bandage.

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