Long-distance hiking is a great way to explore the outdoors and get some exercise. Whether you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail or just exploring your local parks and trails, there are certain injuries that can occur when hiking for extended periods of time.
In this beginner’s guide, we will cover some of the most common long-distance hiking injuries and provide tips on how to deal with them.
Common Long-Distance Hiking Injuries + Remedies
Let’s jump right in.
Blisters are one of the most common hiking injuries. They occur when there is friction between your skin and your socks or shoes. This friction causes the skin to separate from the underlying tissue, creating a blister. To prevent blisters, it’s important to wear well-fitting shoes and socks, and to keep your feet dry.
If you do get a blister, it’s important to treat it properly to prevent infection. First, clean the blister with soap and water. Then, use a sterile needle to make a small hole in the blister. Gently push the fluid out, but leave the skin intact. Cover the blister with a bandage or moleskin to protect it from further irritation.
- Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains are common hiking injuries that can occur when you twist or turn your ankle or knee. This can happen when you’re walking on uneven terrain or when you’re carrying a heavy pack. To prevent sprains and strains, it’s important to wear sturdy, supportive shoes and to take breaks to stretch and rest your muscles.
If you do experience a sprain or strain, it’s important to rest the injured area and elevate it if possible. Apply ice to the area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, to reduce swelling. Use compression, such as an elastic bandage, to help support the injured area. If the pain persists, seek medical attention.
Spending extended periods of time outdoors can expose you to harmful UV rays from the sun, which can cause sunburn. Sunburn can be painful and can increase your risk of skin cancer. To prevent sunburn, wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
If you do get sunburned, it’s important to keep the affected area cool and hydrated. Take cool showers or baths, apply aloe vera or a moisturizing lotion, and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Hiking for long distances can be strenuous and cause you to lose fluids through sweating. Dehydration can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. To prevent dehydration, it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hike.
If you do become dehydrated, it’s important to stop and rest in a shaded area. Drink water or sports drinks to replenish your fluids and electrolytes. If your symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
- Heat Exhaustion
Hiking in hot and humid conditions can cause heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. To prevent heat exhaustion, it’s important to stay hydrated and take breaks in shaded areas.
If you do experience heat exhaustion, it’s important to stop hiking and rest in a shaded area. Drink water or sports drinks to replenish your fluids and electrolytes. Remove any excess clothing and apply cool, damp cloths to your forehead and neck. If your symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
Hiking in cold and wet conditions can cause hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, and slurred speech. To prevent hypothermia, it’s important to dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves to protect your extremities.
If you do experience hypothermia, it’s important to seek shelter and remove any wet clothing. Use blankets or other materials to insulate your body and warm yourself up gradually. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can increase heat loss and worsen hypothermia. If your symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
- Tick Bites
When hiking in wooded areas, tick bites can be a common occurrence. Ticks can carry diseases such as Lyme disease, which can cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and joint pain. To prevent tick bites, wear long pants and sleeves, and use insect repellent that contains DEET.
If you do find a tick on your body, it’s important to remove it properly. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out. Do not twist or squeeze the tick, as this can cause the head to break off and remain in your skin. Clean the bite area with soap and water and monitor it for any signs of infection.
Related: Is Hiking Cardio Or Strength
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can I continue hiking with a blister?
It’s best to avoid putting pressure on a blister, as it can worsen the injury and increase the risk of infection. If possible, take a break from hiking to let the blister heal before continuing.
Q: How can I prevent dehydration on long hikes?
Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hike. Consider bringing a hydration pack or water bottle with you to make it easier to stay hydrated.
Q: How do I know if I have heat exhaustion?
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to stop hiking and rest in a shaded area. Drink water or sports drinks to replenish your fluids and electrolytes.
Q: What should I do if I find a tick on my body?
Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out. Do not twist or squeeze the tick, as this can cause the head to break off and remain in your skin. Clean the bite area with soap and water and monitor it for any signs of infection.
In conclusion, long-distance hiking can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it’s important to be aware of the common injuries that can occur and take steps to prevent and treat them.
By wearing appropriate footwear, staying hydrated, protecting yourself from the sun, and being prepared for changes in weather conditions, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. If you do experience an injury or illness while hiking, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention to ensure proper treatment and a quick recovery.