How to Prevent 10 Common Hiking Injuries

To prop­er­ly intro­duce some­one to the out­doors you must make their expe­ri­ence as pos­i­tive as pos­si­ble. And while pre­cau­tion is the best treat­ment for com­mon hik­ing injuries, some­times a blis­ter or twist­ed ankle is inevitable. And when you bust out that first aid kit to resolve any dis­com­forts, the most impor­tant thing you can pack with you is the knowl­edge of how to use your sup­plies and prop­er­ly alle­vi­ate any ail­ments you may encounter. So here’s what you need to know to be pre­pared for you next hik­ing expe­di­tion:

Sun Burn
When you spend 100% of your time out­side, a lit­tle sun expo­sure is bound to hap­pen. The best way to pre­vent uncom­fort­able sun burns that cause you to toss and turn all night is by wear­ing long sleeves and pants and apply­ing the appro­pri­ate sun­screen every few hours. But hey, some­times long sleeves and pants don’t fit your out­door lifestyle, and with the fun that you’re hav­ing, it can be hard to remem­ber to reap­ply your sun­screen when need­ed. For when that hap­pens and you end your day a nice cher­ry red, any prod­ucts con­tain­ing Aloe Vera will help soothe that sen­si­tive skin. And instead of bring­ing their bulky, spill-prone pack­ag­ing with you, trans­fer it into a trav­el cap­sule and seal it up tight.

Ah, blis­ters, a seem­ing­ly unavoid­able part of your aver­age hik­ing expe­ri­ence. We have all dealt with blis­ters before and they real­ly do suck. But if treat­ed for prop­er­ly to avoid infec­tion, they can be eas­i­ly dealt with (and avoid­ed) in the back­coun­try. Blis­ters arise out of fric­tion caus­ing flu­ids to col­lect between irri­tat­ed lay­ers of skin and swell, even­tu­al­ly tear­ing and caus­ing that dis­com­fort we are all too well versed in. To avoid blis­ters, a good place to start is cor­rect­ly fit­ting shoes and socks. Keep­ing your feet dry or not wet for long peri­ods of time will also help in blis­ter pre­ven­tion. As soon as you feel a “hot-spot” on a poten­tial­ly blis­ter­ing area, by apply­ing a lay­er of mole­skin and ath­let­ic tape you can avoid any rup­tur­ing. If you’ve still man­aged to get a nasty spot on your foot, treat the blis­ter by drain­ing or cut­ting the dam­aged area, apply­ing antibi­ot­ic oint­ment, and uti­liz­ing a Band-Aid and a fair amount of ath­let­ic tape.

Bug Bites
Anoth­er com­mon foe in the fight against peo­ple spend­ing time out­doors is any kind of bit­ing, sting­ing, or gen­er­al­ly annoy­ing insect. Rang­ing from gnats to mos­qui­tos, the best way to pre­vent these epi­der­mis intrud­ers is by wear­ing cloth­ing that cov­ers the entire skin; if they’re real­ly bad, this might include a head net. Many repel­lants are offered on the mar­ket from nat­ur­al solu­tions to prod­uct lines that con­tain DEET, and between long clothes and these repel­lants you can avoid most bites that will come your way. For the ones that you can’t avoid, prod­ucts like Calamine Lotion will help you avoid your instinct to itch and re-aggra­vate the bite marks.

Poi­son Ivy
Noth­ing can ruin a fun time like Poi­son Ivy, Poi­son Oak, or Poi­son Sumac, and the spread­ing rash these plants can bring. Being able to iden­ti­fy and avoid (and espe­cial­ly not use as toi­let paper) is by far the eas­i­est way to treat any poi­son rash con­cerns. After that, and as usu­al, long sleeves and pants that cov­er the most com­mon con­tact areas (arms and legs) will help avoid any trou­ble or late-night itch­ing. If you do stum­ble upon an unex­pect­ed grove of these poi­so­nous plants, stor­ing some Calamine in your first aid kit should help with some of the irri­ta­tion.

*Note: Poi­son Ivy and relat­ed plants can end your camp­ing trip with over expo­sure or inhala­tion by burn­ing of the plant. If you think this has hap­pened to you, imme­di­ate­ly exit the trail and find the clos­est emer­gency sta­tion.

Sure, some­times a person’s men­tion of the area between their legs could be con­sid­ered TMI, but the irri­ta­tion of chaffing is a real thing that can put a real damper on your hik­ing expe­ri­ence. This com­mon hik­ing injury isn’t cured by long sleeves either, instead choos­ing the appro­pri­ate active under­wear over your aver­age cot­ton briefs will go a long way in avoid­ing the “long day in the sad­dle” look at night. Think wool or syn­thet­ic nylon when choos­ing your adven­ture undies, and if you still find your­self scratch­ing at places that shouldn’t be scratched in pub­lic, a good hand­ful of body pow­der can go a long way.

Twist­ed Ankle
If you’re hik­ing on an uneven trail that con­tains rocks, hid­den obsta­cles, or slip­pery sur­faces, a twist­ed ankle can be hard to avoid. While some twists can be fixed by the “walk it off” approach, oth­ers need a lit­tle more atten­tion if you intend to fin­ish your hike. To avoid these time-suck­ing injuries, wear­ing the appro­pri­ate boots with ankle pro­tec­tion is a good place to start. Beyond that, car­ry­ing a hik­ing stick or some kind of sta­bi­liz­er will help you bal­ance your steps. If you do twist your ankle to the point of need­ing to take a seat, be sure to ele­vate the injury, know how to make a prop­er ankle brace, and take a rest day if you can afford it to let the swelling sub­side.

Minor Scrapes & Abra­sions
Some­times it won’t be until the end of the day when you real­ize you scraped up your legs pret­ty good while tromp­ing through those thorn bush­es. It’s like an old record being spun, but long sleeves and pants can make a big dif­fer­ence in the pro­tec­tion of your skin from minor scrapes and abra­sions, but they don’t always offer com­plete pro­tec­tion. Thank­ful­ly, minor scrapes and abra­sions are fair­ly easy to treat with some antibi­ot­ic lotion and well-place Band-Aids. And by keep­ing an eye on the cut for a few days until it heals, you can ensure that it is heal­ing prop­er­ly and avoid­ing infec­tion.

Mus­cle Cramp­ing
Noth­ing is more fun than hav­ing your legs cramp with every step you take up the moun­tain, or that feel­ing of your toes curl­ing in on them­selves as you lay in your tent at night. Cramp­ing is anoth­er com­mon hik­ing injury that is com­mon­ly pro­duced by dehy­dra­tion. Sounds sim­ple enough then, to avoid cramp­ing make sure you are drink­ing a lot of water. But some­times in the heat of the moment, espe­cial­ly if the moment is par­tic­u­lar­ly cold, it can be hard to remem­ber to drink the appro­pri­ate amount of H2O. Stretch­ing before your big hike can help, and if you find your­self suc­cumb­ing to a nasty cramp, stretch­ing fur­ther can alle­vi­ate some of the pain. Con­sid­er apply­ing hot and cold tem­per­a­tures to the cramp and refu­el­ing with an elec­trolyte-dense sports drink. These solu­tions can often get you the rest of the way home.

Con­sti­pa­tion / Diar­rhea
It’s a taboo con­ver­sa­tion top­ic at the din­ner table, but open com­mu­ni­ca­tion about your diges­tive con­di­tion is an impor­tant safe­ty fac­tor on the trail. An upset stom­ach is not only an incon­ve­nience to your over­all mood and per­for­mance, but left untreat­ed it can lead to gut-bust­ing med­ical emer­gen­cies. Com­bined with the extra exer­cise and trail food diet, stom­achs can respond dif­fer­ent­ly to hik­ing life. Diar­rhea can most com­mon­ly be caused by dehy­dra­tion or bac­te­r­i­al infec­tion and can be pre­vent­ed by stay­ing hydrat­ed and cook­ing all food prop­er­ly (and avoid­ing unfa­mil­iar berries). Con­sti­pa­tion can be caused by many dif­fer­ent rea­sons, and on trail it can be asso­ci­at­ed with new diets and phys­i­cal and men­tal stress. By car­ry­ing a small sup­ply of Imod­i­um and Lax­a­tives, it can help things go a lit­tle smoother.

A lit­tle exhaus­tion should be part of your expe­ri­ence while hik­ing, it means that you are push­ing your­self into new ter­ri­to­ries and will offer per­haps some of the best sleep you’ll ever expe­ri­ence at the end of the day. But take exhaus­tion too far out in the wild and you could find your­self in a tough sit­u­a­tion. A com­mon cause of exhaus­tion is dehy­dra­tion and improp­er nutri­tion. Make no mis­take about it, when trav­el­ing on the trail you are burn­ing a lot of calo­ries and your machine of a body needs a lot of fuel. Bring calo­rie-dense (and light) food with you on trail, and plan your water sources before you go out; if all else fails, just short­en your intend­ed mileage or take a break and extend the dura­tion of your trip.