In the middle of regular, mundane life; a call from the mountains can sound refreshing. But, those beautiful, mysterious trails also have some loopholes, which might make you suffer, if you are not prepared enough.
Hiking injuries are pretty much common among regular hikers. If you are a new bee here, no need to stay back in fear of the unknown hazards.
We are here to help you with the simple prevention techniques for the 10 most common hiking injuries and their even simpler remedies if they break through your hiking trail.
1. Hiking Blisters
Blisters are one of the most common hiking injuries, caused by continuous friction between poorly fitting shoes and your feet, after a long day hike.
How to Prevent Hiking Blisters?
For preventing blister formation, ensure having a pair of hiking boots that fit you perfectly without giving your feet undue rubbing against the inside.
However, they mustn’t be too tight as well. They should allow your toes getting little wiggling space, in case you are wearing a thick pair of wool socks, especially for winter hikes.
In addition, try them on for one or two times before you start off your actual journey. Picking up a new pair right at the dawn of your hike is never recommended.
Dry feet are happy feet and they go a long way in preventing blisters. For socks, you should never choose cotton, since they retain moisture and get your feet all sweaty and make them a good home for blisters.
Wool or synthetic socks should get on board with you. Make sure, they are not wrinkled and get fit in your feet snugly and have two to three pairs extra, keeping river crossing or rain on your mind.
Change them frequently; rinse and air-dry them, before you get a new pair on.
How to treat Hiking blisters?
Even if you have all those precautions, these disturbing blisters might eventually pop up. But, you can keep them from getting any worse.
Whenever your feet hurt more than they should, stop where you are. Take a short break and look for any hot, red, inflamed skin.
This, if unattended, might end up like a blister. So, cover and protect it with duct tape or moleskin.
A small, less painful blister should be left alone unless it is bothering you too much. For blisters on the heel, you can use duct tape bandage to keep it away from further friction.
When it is too big to ignore or is likely to get popped on its own, then get ready with a sterilized needle or blade for a careful puncture and drainage of blister fluid. Use an alcohol swab to clean the overlying skin.
Paint it with an antiseptic ointment and finish off with bandage and duct tape. For pain, consider some over the counter pain killer medications as handy.
2. How to Handle sprain on a hike?
An ankle sprain is the most common enemy for frequent hikers. Nothing is as much pain as going uphill or downhill a steep trail with a twisted ankle.
How to Prevent Ankle Sprain on a hike?
To protect your ankles from getting frequent sprains, choose a hiking boot that gives you a proper fit and optimum ankle support.
A hiking pole can also provide you better stability and prevent undue stress over your ankles and knees. Step cautiously onto uneven terrains.
How to treat a sprained ankle on a hike?
One can never be too smart to have a sprain. So, we need to follow a simple RICE method to deal with an ankle sprain on trails:
Rest: No matter how much time consuming it may sound, when you get some sprain, stop and get some rest. Don’t carry any unnecessary weight on your ankles until you have to.
Ice packing: Having ice packs over the hills might sound unrealistic, so, you can keep the affected ankle submerged under a river or stream water instead.
Even better, soak a towel with cold water (if available) and wrap it around the ankle.
Compression – Get the affected joint some compression within a tolerable level by using an elastic bandage.
Elevation – The twisted ankle should be kept elevated above the level of the heart for a while.
After you start walking again, ensure having a hiking pole with you as a support.
3. Muscle Cramps While Hiking
Muscle cramps can be another annoying addition to the list of obstacles standing on the way of a happy trail.
It is caused by dehydration and electrolyte imbalance due to excessive sweating in hot, humid trails.
How to avoid Legs cramps on a hike?
Prevention of muscle cramps is as simple as keeping yourself hydrated enough. Drink at least 2 cups of water every hour of the hike.
This is particularly important if you are hiking in cold weather, because, you will not even realize that you are dehydrated. Enrich your hydration pack with electrolytes-rich drinks as well.
How to treat leg muscle cramps on a hike?
If you are already in the land of painful cramps, consider some stretching exercise. Rest and rehydrate yourself. Give some hot and cold compressions alternatively if available.
You may also take some muscle relaxant ointment or spray from your first aid kit.
4. Cuts While hiking.
Cuts are one of the most frequent injuries we encounter while hiking. They occur due to accidental fall over uneven terrains and rough rocks.
How to avoid cuts and wounds on a hike?
Be careful when you are walking on uneven ground or passing underneath any branches of a tree, to prevent getting unnecessary cuts from accidental fall over rough rocks.
Cover and protect your limbs by clothes to avoid scratches from unusually grown tree branches.
How to treat cuts and wounds on the trail?
Disinfect the small wound with alcohol solution and follow with an antiseptic ointment and bandage over it. Use a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from a bigger wound.
Take a pressure bandage or towel and wrap it tightly above the wound. Note down the time of tourniquet application, so that you might inform you’re attending medical professional later.
5. Fractured & Dislocated Bones on a hike.
Fracture and dislocation are most frequently occurring injuries in the ankle, knee joint or wrist after an accidental fall (symptoms are usually similar to those of strains or sprains, but tend to be more severe).
Shoulder dislocation is the commonest (mostly occur while pushing past a hiking pole ora planted ski or due to accidental fall from height).
Signs and symptoms include excruciating pain and decreased ROM (Range of Motion).
How to avoid dislocated bones or fractured on a hike?
Use hiking poles when you hike and try some stretching exercises to prepare your muscles and joints for trekking. Keep your hands off the wrist straps attached to hiking poles.
Treat Fractured on the trail: Immobilize the affected joint by a make-shift splint with rolling gauze and never try to fix a dislocated joint on your own unless you are a medical professional.
In case of a fractured leg, immobilize the limb in these steps:
- An uninflated sleeping pad can be placed under the injured leg. Keep the knee joint elevated by placing a soft blanket as a supporting pad under it.
- Tie the make-shift supportive pad around the leg with at least two bands of rolling gauze or cloth: one above the knee and another below its level.
- The extra length of the pad can be tied around the foot like a boot-wrap. It should support the ankle at a right angle and prevent undue movement. Loosen a little at frequent intervals and look for any signs of compartment syndrome.
Call for medical help if you see bone breaking through the skin with excessive bleeding or a limb moving at an odd angle, or if there’s no pulse or sensation below the injury.
If you are not alert enough, the injured person might lose his/her limb permanently.
6. Hypothermia while hiking.
The decreased core temperature of the body below 96 degrees Fahrenheit might be referred to as hypothermia. This is one of the most hazardous hiking injuries sustained in cold weather.
How do you prevent hypothermia when hiking?
Preventative efforts should be effective enough to avoid treating upcoming complications. Simple precaution steps might be as follows including:
- Plan your hiking trip, keeping the weather and surrounding location on the mind. Ensure having a safe shelter on your way, in case of unfavorable weather.
- Know your trail to avoid stopping unnecessarily and wandering around without any clue about your current location.
- Use protective equipment to deal with snowstorms and wear clothes in layer to avoid getting colder in the icy trail.
- Stay dry as much as you can.
- Keep your hands gloved and head covered with a woolen hat to slow down heat loss in cold trail.
- Stay dry as much as you can.
- Ensure having a minimum one piece of extra warm clothes with you when you are planning to hike over the ice-covered trail.
- Keep an emergency shelter like tarp packed with you, if it is a multi-day trek and you are less likely to return to a safe home at night.
- A space blanket should be included in your first aid kit, especially for a winter hike or in weather prone to snowstorms or cold waves.
- Carry a Thermo flask containing hot drinks like chocolate or coffee with you for keeping you energized and warm in cold weather.
How to treat Hypothermia on the trail?
Cover the affected person or yourself with warm blankets and layers of more clothes. If possible, take shelter away from the cold wave.
Take hot drinks like chocolate or tea (if available). Call for help if the temperature doesn’t return to normal anytime soon.
7. Frostbite from Hiking in a cold-weather:
Watch out for any waxy, white skin and a tingling sensation, numbness on the face, fingers or toes. Check for absent pulse or any skin discoloration, and whether it dents with pressure. This might be frostbite.
How do you prevent frostbite in extreme colds?
Prevent hypothermia in ways stated before. Keep your limbs dry and warm; loosen up any restrictive clothing or boots.
How to prevent frostbite on a cold hike?
Re-heat yourself or the affected person, by skin to skin contact (if possible). Avoid rubbing already frozen tissue. Submerge the frozen toes or fingers in water with a little higher temperature (tolerable enough).
Avoid radiating heat (like a campfire), because, for the already numb tissues, the risk of getting burnt easily is higher.
Hyperthermia is the exact opposite of hypothermia. It is the increase of core body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius which can occur when hiking in very hot climate. Symptoms can include:
- Profuse sweating.
- Feeling very weak, having headaches and muscle cramps.
- If the surrounding condition is still the same, sweating will eventually stop; resulting in an eventual more increase of core body temperature.
- If left untreated, this condition may result in heatstroke. Unconsciousness can be the worst-case scenario and call for immediate medical help.
Prevention of Hyperthermia on a hike:
Ensure drinking plenty of fluids while trekking in extremely hot weather and that you also are wearing a hat to block the direct sun’s rays.
Packing and using an adequate amount of sunscreen during the summer months is very important to prevent sunburn. Wear breathable layers of clothes that you can shed easily if you are feeling uncomfortably hot.
Take shower in streams and sprinkles if available to cool yourself down.
Hyperthermia Treatment on the trail.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of hyperthermia is very crucial. Remember the three stages: heat exhaustion, hyperthermia, and heatstroke. Remove the affected person away from the scorching Sun.
Give the whole body a quick sponge bath; wash the head in profuse amount of cold water. Drink water doubling up the 2 cups rule and add electrolytes rich fluid in a hydration pack.
Loosen up tight clothes and ensure proper ventilation. If the condition still, calls for medical help immediately.
9. Diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration while hiking.
There is nothing worse than a ruined hiking trip with diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration trio. It can be caused by contamination of your food and water by V. Cholerae or Giardia due to unhealthy handwashing habits.
Ensure proper cleaning of hands before you eat anything or touch your food or drinks. Use hand sanitizer if water and soap are unavailable. Drink boiled water or purify your hydration pack with UV purifier/water purification tablets.
Take rest and ensure appropriate rehydration. Drink a minimum of 2 cups of water every 1 hour of hiking; add oral rehydration salt in your hydration pack.
Add energy and electrolytes-rich drinks in your drinking list and wait for at least 24 hours for the conditions to resolve. Evacuate, if you see any signs of severe infection, like abdominal pain and fever.
10. Bug Bites on the trail.
How to avoid bug bites on a hike?
Bug bites are not easy to prevent, especially when you are out in the wild exploring big swarms. Consider taking good insect repellent creams and fabric roll-ons with you while you are hiking.
Re-apply as directed in their labels. Use protective mosquito-net while you sleep in tents.
Bug bites treatment on a hike?
Don’t scratch and turn them into infected and inflamed wounds. Instead, apply cold water or cold water-soaked towel on them.
Paint them with antiseptic ointment. You can also apply peppermint oil on them to reduce swelling and burning sensations.
Hiking and little injuries go hands in hands. But, one must not restrict himself from exploring the bewitching beauties of the mountains in fear of these minor obstacles.
Get yourself prepped with these pro-tips and treat them as you go. All the best!