There are very few activities in life that give you as much joy as hiking. The sport is adventurous, therapeutic, invigorating, and is a great way to connect with nature, new people, and even yourself. But like everything else good in life, trekking too comes with its fair share of troubles. It may not be a dangerous sport per se, but sudden injuries are a part and parcel of it. Since you never know what uncertainty you may have to face in the mountains it’s always wise to be aware of some basics. So, here’s a list of things you should know before you embark on a trekking expedition of your own.
Some of the Most Common Hiking Injuries Are:
For starters, let’s make it perfectly clear that hiking injuries are usually not very grave in nature. They are more inclined to be minor and common; injuries you have likely sustained in everyday life. Having said that, it is never a good idea to dismiss these injuries on a trek no matter how inconsequential they may seem initially. Trekking puts an obvious physical distance between you and proper medical facilities so it’s prudent to take care of your wounds from the very moment they make themselves known to you.
1. Cuts & Scrapes
Not exactly a very uncommon injury, cuts & scrapes may seem like just the sort of thing you shrug off without a second thought. But when you are on a trek the risk of incurring those seemingly tiny gashes exemplify and they might even go unnoticed until they start bleeding and festering due to lack of care.
If the cut isn’t too big, disinfecting it and covering it with a band-aid should do the trick. But if it is a big one and it is bleeding frequently, you will need to make a makeshift tourniquet out of anything you own typically a belt or a scrap of clothing. Tie it tightly around the affected area and keep the wound clean.
Also Read: Kedarkantha Trek: The Best Snow Trek
Anyone who has actually experienced the stinging, soreness, and discomfort that comes from sunburn will be sure to step out of their homes wearing proper sun block. Others are only too quick to dismiss the idea of slathering sunscreen on themselves especially for a rendezvous in the mountains. But mountain sun does not tend to be too friendly on your skin, making it all too simple for you to turn a tomato-red by the time you have settled in for the night.
To treat sunburn you can apply ice-packs or cool wet cloths to the affected areas – that will help with the sting. You may also use an aloe vera based sunscreen to soothe your skin as the plant is especially known for its instant cooling effect.
This one is a no-brainer. Long hours spent walking uphill through serpentine pathways, under the harsh sun is without a doubt an exhausting procedure. So, it won’t be anything out of the ordinary if you find yourself constantly parched. If you deny your body the water it needs, dehydration will follow suit.
The only way to combat dehydration is to drink adequate water throughout your journey. Take little sips from your bottle at regular intervals and avoid hectic walks during the hottest parts of the day. It is also a good idea to catch quick breaks under cool shades if you are feeling yourself losing breath quite often.
4. Hypothermia or Hyperthermia
Hypothermia happens when your body’s core temperature drops several levels below the normal range. The condition takes hold of one’s body when hiking under bone-chilling temperatures. And Hyperthermia is the drastic rise in body temperature, a condition that exclusively takes the body hostage in a hot and humid climate. Both Hypothermia and Hyperthermia are serious ailments and they can all too soon become a rather terrifying thing to suffer from when stuck in the hills.
These situations require immediate medical intervention so calling for medical help should be the first step. In the case of Hypothermia, try to keep the body warm by drinking lots of warm fluids, wearing warm clothes, and taking rest. The opposite tactics must be applied when dealing with Hyperthermia. It is important to drink cool water and wash the face and body with it, every effort should be made to bring the body temperature back to normal.
A fairly common hiking injury, blisters are born out of the constant friction of your shoes and feet when exposed to long walks. They result in the accumulation of fluids between the irritated layers causing the area to swell and pain. In due course, the blister ruptures causing intense discomfort, inability to wear covered shoes, and prevents one from taking long walks. Needless to say, blisters can cause a lot of damage to your trekking experience, irrespective of their size.
The way to prevent blisters is to wear proper hiking footwear and to actually break it in before the trek. Ensure that your feet are neither too dry nor too wet for prolonged periods and apply a band-aid whenever you feel the first sensations of pressure and sting on your feet.
In case you get a blister despite the precautions, treat it with an antibiotic ointment, clean the wound and cover it up with a band-aid. Make sure not to put too much stress on the area.
A common hiking foot injury, sprains are always unprecedented and can happen under the most ordinary circumstances. While climbing down a boulder, walking over a muddy trail or simply slipping your foot; sprains cannot be foreseen.
But they may be prevented by donning the right pair of hiking shoes. A hiking stick can also work wonders in stabilizing your body and is thus always recommended a must-have in treks. On the off chance, you do sprain your foot, it is wise to take a break and elevate the sprained foot. Elevating the injury will prevent swelling and alleviate pain. If the pain persists longer than anticipated, do not push yourself to complete the journey.
7. Muscle Cramps
Cramps are quite a common hiking injury and maybe a result of dehydration and exhaustion. Although usually not too serious, cramps can make it difficult for you to continue the journey without wincing in pain every now and then.
To avoid cramps, keep yourself physically active prior to your trekking trip, warm-ups are a must before you begin your hike for the day, and drink electrolyte-based drinks to keep your body invigorated.
8. Bug Bites
The hills and forests are swarming with bugs – some infectious and some just annoying. Nevertheless, their stings are sharp and can prove to be quite painful.
It goes without saying that clothes that cover the entire skin is necessary to keep insects at bay. But more often than not, that’s not enough. So you will have to resort to insect repellants. Make sure you do your research to find out the kind of insects you are likely to cross paths with so as to carry relevant repellants. In case the damage is already done, avoid scratching the area, and treat it with mild calamine lotion.
9. Lower Back Pain
Walking uphill is a strenuous activity and it exerts much pressure on your leg muscles and lower back area. Couple that with bad posture and you will find yourself suffering from intense lower back pain while hiking by the end of the day’s journey.
An excellent way to prevent such an injury would be to build your core strength prior to the trek. Additionally, you should also invest in a suitable backpack, sleeping pad, and a pair of trekking poles.
Safety Tips for Trekking/Hiking
Your dream trip can quickly become a living nightmare if you do not follow some protocols. It is imperative to keep abide by a few rules and safety tips to ensure your trek is smooth-sailing.
- Research the place before you leave for your trek. Find out the risks of the route you are on and take adequate precautions against them. It is also essential to have a list of the closest medical facilities handy.
- Carry appropriate clothes and footwear. Do not overload your backpack, carry only what you need.
- Do not leave for a trek or hike without a first-aid kit. Your kit should typically consist of the items: bandages, insect repellants, duct tape, sunblock, antibiotic lotions and ointments, antiseptics, tweezers, pain-killers, electrolyte powders
- Prepare for unpredictable weather conditions and pack your clothing in layers, carry extra socks and gloves. Do not leave for a trek without a raincoat.
- Make sure you have proper navigation tools like a map or compass. Also, remember to pack your flashlight.