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Hiking Injuries : A Beginner's Guide To Prevention and Treatment

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The exciting trails and picturesque surroundings that you enjoy during hiking come with a fair share of common hiking injuries. It is true that a rendezvous with nature on a hiking trail is an unmatched experience. But if you are injured on the trail, it doesn’t take long before your dream trail turns into a nightmare. Before starting a hike, it is always good to evaluate your physical fitness. If you have an ailing muscle or sore joint, it is better to recover completely before your next hike.

Having an idea about the possible mountain climbing injuries that you may face will help you to prepare your first aid kit for hiking. Let us have a look at some very common hiking injuries that hikers face and how to deal with them.

Top 9 Hiking Injuries: Learn to Keep them at Bay!

Let us start with a list of the most common troubles and injuries that hikers face. A detailed analysis of hiking injuries statistics has yielded the topmost frequent injuries that affect a hiker. Each one of these is discussed below, along with how to prevent common hiking injuries and how to treat them.

  1. Ankle Sprains and Strains

The injury that makes it to the top of our compilation of hiking injuries is a sprain. When your ankles are sprained during a hike, you are going to be in pain and discomfort. In order to prevent foot injury while hiking, it is advised that you invest in a good pair of hiking boots. This will make sure that your feet are supported well throughout the hike and you avoid slips and injuries resulting due to it. Carrying hiking poles with you also largely eliminates the likelihood of sprains.

Ankle Sprains or Twists
Avoid Ankle Sprains

However, if you happen to sprain your ankle during a hike, here’s what you have to do:

  • Take a break from hiking and remove all the weight from the injured body part.
  • Try to cool the area with a snow pack or cool water flowing in a nearby stream or river.
  • Compress the region using an elastic band or tying a spare piece of clothing.
  • Lie down and raise the affected area above the heart to limit the blood flow in the sprained region.

After resting for some time, use the hiking poles to balance out and try to put as little weight on the injured area as possible.

  1. Blisters

According to hiking injury statistics, these are some of the most common hiking injuries that affect all hikers at least once in their lives. Typical reasons for blisters are faulty fitting of hiking boots, not wearing footwear appropriate for the trail and a rough terrain. Sometimes, blisters can also occur because of the humid weather and friction on the feet. For preventing blisters, hiking should be thoroughly planned.

Blisters Are Common
Hikers Frequently Get Feet Blisters

So, how do you prevent blisters while hiking?

  • While there is nothing that you can do to alter the hiking trail map, you can definitely make it a point never to wear sandals or flip flops on a hike.
  • Always wear good quality hiking shoes with appropriate socks to prevent blisters.
  • For preventing blisters, hiking should always be done in proper gear.
  • In humid weather, regularly airing your feet is a good way of to prevent blisters. 
  • Applying an antibacterial cream or gel and immediately covering the region with bandage is the best way on how to avoid blisters when hiking. This will prevent further friction and deterioration of the blister.

Know the details on  How to Prevent Blisters While Hiking

  1. Pains

Whether it is knee pain, shoulder pain, back pain after hiking or hip pain after hiking, it can take the fun out of your hike. Try to figure out the reason for the pain. Is your IT band too tight? Are you struggling with your weight control? Is your hiking backpack too heavy? Are the bag straps snug enough? Answering some of these questions may help you, but if not, then it is best to consult a doctor.

Over Packing Can Harm Your Body
Heavy Backpacks Can Cause Back and Shoulder Pain

The best way to prevent a joint pain during hiking is to watch your step continuously. Any carelessness on your part may lead to hiking injuries like slips or falls, thereby starting or worsening the joint pain or knee pain after hiking. If you observe hip pain after hiking, the culprit could be the hiking boots that do not give you proper cushioning. Similarly, knee pain after hiking could be due to any of these factors. If you suffer from foot arch pain or Achilles tendonitis, it is advisable that you do some stretching exercise of the feet prior to the hike.

If you encounter these pains in the middle of your hike, try to put minimum pressure or weight on the affected region and use hiking poles to balance out your weight uniformly and walk until you reach a medical unit. Keeping a few painkiller sprays and tablets will give you some relief but don’t ignore these pains once you are back from the hike. Regular stretching exercises will help you learn how to avoid tendonitis while hiking.

Read: Knee Pain after Hiking: A Beginner's Guide on Hiker's Knee

  1. Insect Bites

The thrill of being outdoors is routinely interrupted by little winged and non-winged creatures biting you from time to time. Some of these bites can be very painful and may lead to local swelling, while others can give rise to an allergic reaction that is a bit more serious, and requires medical intervention.

Prevent Insect Bites
Insect Bites Can Cause Localised Swelling

For preventing insect bites:

  • The first and the easiest thing is to cover the limbs completely
  • Another simple way is to apply insect repellent creams and sprays to all exposed parts of the body.
  • It is also advisable to avoid a bee’s nest or a hornet’s nest if you see one.

If you get stung by an insect, you should remove the stinger and apply a local anti-inflammatory cream. Keeping an antihistamine tablet in your first aid kit for hiking, just in case you develop a severe allergic reaction. If you have a known history of bee-sting allergy, never forget to carry your personal epinephrine injector pen.

  1. Cuts and Bruises

Cuts and bruises are hiking injuries that happen suddenly. Most common causes of these injuries are sharp stones, tree roots or sharp gear. Again, preventing these injuries is possible to a large extent by being observant and aware about the hiking trail and the potentially dangerous parts of the trail.

Cuts Can Get Infected
Cuts Can Frequently Occur

If you happen to have a cut or bruise while on the hiking trail:

  • Immediately clean it up with an antibacterial solution.
  • Keeping it covered with a light bandage will prevent further infection.
  • If the cut results in bleeding, use a spare piece of cloth or clothing to compress the area until the bleeding stops.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  1. Fatigue and Dehydration

Water is a critical component of our body. It is a scientific fact that we can survive longer food than without water. On a physically demanding exercise like a hike, our body loses a lot of water in the form of sweat. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the hike.

Hiking Injuries
How to Avoid Hiking Injuries

Carrying your own bottle of water and sipping water regularly is a very simple way to prevent dehydration and fatigue. But, it should be kept in mind that drinking too much water at one go will also make you uncomfortable. As a rule, eight ounces of water per mile is decent water intake for a hiker.

If you encounter dehydration and fatigue while hiking:

  • Light salty snacking will be helpful.
  • Drink some water, and if possible, an electrolyte balancing drink.
  • Avoid exposure to direct overhead sunlight and have some rest.
  • However, if the dehydration manifests in the form of too much dizziness or confusion, immediate medical assistance should be called.
  1. Sunburn

One must never underestimate the power of the sun, even on cloudy days. The intense UV rays have the ability to pass through the clouds and harm our skin. What starts as a rosy glow in the beginning of the hike may turn into a severe burn if proper care is not taken.

Hats For Sun Protection
Wear Hats to Protect Skin From Sun

Preventing a sunburn is very easy.

  • Headgear such as a hat prevents the solar rays from hitting the face directly.
  • Also, it is a good practice to apply sunscreen before starting the hike, and reapply it at regular intervals, say, every 2 hours.
  • Covering the limbs is also a simple way to prevent the damage caused by the rays of the sun.
  • If, however, you get a sunburn, do not peel or pop it.
  • The best way to deal with a sunburn is to apply an ice pack or cool water, followed by a soothing skin cream.
  • A sunburn will go away with time but the pain and irritation associated with it can be eased by medication.
  1. Giardia Infections

This is probably one of the most troublesome hiking injuries, not only for the individual suffering from it but for the whole group. Giardia is a parasite that infects humans and results in diarrhea and vomiting. It is spread by infected water, and by human to human contact between infected and healthy persons. Stomach cramps and distention are common symptoms associated with it.

In order to prevent diarrhea:

  • Regular washing of hands is required.
  • If you don’t have access to water, then it is a safe practice to carry antiseptic hand gels.
  • Also, it is a good idea to carry water from a trusted source.
  • In case you run out of potable water, and have to drink from a foreign source, keeping a disposable water filter will be a lifesaver.
  • Make a habit of carrying antiseptic wipes with you wherever you go out.
  • If you encounter these symptoms, you should focus on replenishing fluids in the body.
  • Taking medication for stomach ache and cramps will provide temporary relief. You should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Read all about Water Filtration for Hiking: Learn the Survival Techniques (Infographic)

  1. Hypothermia or Hyperthermia

Hypothermia is a decrease of mean body temperature and hyperthermia is an increase of mean body temperature. Either of these conditions is very troublesome for the hiker. If you have a low blood pressure, your chances of hypothermia during hiking are higher.

Wear Multiple Layer to Avoid Hypothermia
Avoid Hypothermia With Warm Clothing and Protection

Preventing hypothermia is better than treating it. Keeping a flask of warm drinks is advised. Similarly, keeping a spare jacket and gloves also helps prevent hypothermia. On the other hand, for preventing hyperthermia, you should keep yourself hydrated and keep drinking cool liquids. In general, it is advised that the hikers clothing should be according to the weather.

In case someone has either of these troubles during a hike, medical attention should be sought.

Summing Up

Common hiking foot injuries can be managed well by exercise and by wearing the right hiking gear.  For temporary relief, painkiller medication like tablets and sprays are very useful, but if they persist longer, then medical attention should be sought. The same holds true for common hiking knee injuries.

Now that you have an idea about the various kinds if hiking injuries that you can encounter on your next hiking session, you should be prepared with a first aid kit for hiking. While some of these injuries do not require prompt or sustained medical attention, others, like hip pain after hiking could require prolonged medical intervention.

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