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 it’s just inevitable. When you bust out that first aid kit to resolve any discomforts, the most important thing you can pack with you is knowledge. So here’s what you need to know to be prepared for hiking injuries.
The best way to prevent uncomfortable sunburns that cause you to toss and turn all night? Wear 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. When that happens and you end your day in a shade of cherry red, any products containing Aloe Vera will help. And instead of bringing the 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. 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 one, apply a layer of moleskin and athletic tape to avoid any rupturing. Still managed to get a nasty blister? Treat it by draining or cutting the damaged area, applying antibiotic ointment, and utilizing a Band-Aid and a fair amount of athletic tape.
3. Bug Bites
Another common foe in the fight against people spending time outdoors? Any kind of biting, stinging, or generally annoying insect; these range 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. 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.
4. 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. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember, especially if the moment is particularly cold. Drink the right amount of H2O.
Stretching before your big hike can help too. 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.
5. 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. And as usual, long sleeves and pants that cover the most common contact areas will help avoid any trouble. 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 overexposure 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.
6. Scrapes & Abrasions
Sometimes it won’t be until the end of the day when you realize you scraped up your legs pretty good. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it has to be said again. Long sleeves and pants can make a big difference in the protection of your skin.
But they don’t always offer complete protection. Thankfully, minor scrapes and abrasions are fairly easy to treat with some antibiotic lotion and well-placed 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.
Sure, sometimes a person’s mention of the area between their legs could be considered TMI, but the irritation of chafing is a real thing that can put a real damper on your hiking experience. 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.
8. Twisted Ankle
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.
9. Constipation or 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 just an inconvenience to your overall mood and performance. 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. But it 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 the 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.
10. Last but not least, Exhaustion
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 the 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.