If you do a lot of hiking, chances are an injury or two is going to happen eventually. As always prevention is better than cure but you also need to know how to treat your injuries. In this post, we will go into the most common hiking injuries, how to prevent them and also how to cure them. Hold onto your hats folks, this is a goodie.
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This is one of the most common hiking injuries. Blisters are caused by rubbing or friction. To prevent these annoying wee foot buddies from happening, ensure that your socks fit correctly (you don’t want socks that slip up and down as you walk).
You also need to make sure that your boots are nice and snug but not too snug. They should fit tight enough to prevent your foot from moving around or rubbing against the inside. On the other hand, if they too tight, you are going to be hobbling for a while after your hike.
Dry feet also help to keep blisters at bay. If your feet get wet from a creek crossing, change into a dry pair as soon as you can.
As soon as you feel the first signs of a hot spot, stop and tend to your foot by applying a layer of moleskin and athletic tape. This should help avoid any rupturing or it turning into a full-blown (and uncomfortable) blister.
If you do get a blister, you want to be all over it like a rash. Acting quickly will prevent any unnecessary discomfort further down the line. Don’t pop your blister unless you have a sterilised needle on hand. If you don’t, use a blister plaster or wrap it tightly with a bandage.
Read More: How to look after your feet on a hike
Chaffing happens, a little TMI perhaps but it’s a part of hiking life. You can help prevent chafing by wearing appropriate active underwear and proper fitting clothes.
Gently clean the chafed area with water and dry it thoroughly. After cleaning the area, apply a substance like petroleum jelly. If the area is very painful, swollen, bleeding, or crusted, your health care provider may recommend a medicated ointment
Shop: antiseptic cream
Sprains of the ankle are the most common sprains during hiking. To prevent this, a good sturdy pair of hiking boots with ankle support will go a long way. Be careful where you place your feet on uneven ground and hiking poles can help give you stability.
Also, don’t pretend to be a mountain goat if you are clumsy.
Sometimes sprains happen to even the best of us. To treat sprains, follow the RICE procedure.
- Rest Take any weight off of the sprained ankle immediately
- Ice Most likely you won’t have taken any ice with you on your hike, and if you did, it will most likely be water by the time you sprained something. Instead, you can use packed snow to cool the injury, submerge the ankle in cold water such as a creek or river or soak a piece of spare clothing in water and wrap it around the sprain.
- Compression Apply compression using an elastic bandage or a spare piece of clothing, however, make sure that it isn’t too tight. You will need circulation.
- Elevation Raise the sprain to above the person’s heart.
Eventually, you will need to move again. You can use your trekking pole or a strong, straight stick at as splint and hobble on down the hill, clinging to your hiking buddy for support.
Shop: Medical tape
Cramping is commonly caused by dehydration. Drink lots of water, even if you don’t feel like it. Remember to stretch properly before a hike and after.
Stretching throughout your hike will help lessen the pain. You can also apply hot and cold temperatures to the cramp and dink electrolyte-dense sports drink. My friend, Ronna, often gets leg cramps on a hike and swears by salty food. So much so that she ate all my ready salted chips up Mt Tongariro….
Shop: Electrolyte tablets
Constipation and Diarrhoea
An upset tum can really hinder your enjoyment on a hike. Diarrhoea can be caused by a number of things including the extra exercise and trail food. You can prevent this by staying hydrated, cooking all food properly, avoiding unfamiliar berries and treating all water that you consume.
Constipation can be caused by your trail food if you are unfamiliar with it, physical and mental stress.
Carry a small supply of Imodium and Laxatives and drink plenty of water.
Shop: Herbal intestinal formula
Ah yes, this is my most common injury (blast you bush lawyer!). These are rather difficult to prevent but luckily they usually aren’t too serious.
Take care when hiking on uneven ground and when passing undergrowth. This will hopefully prevent you from falling over and cuts from branches are thorny bushes.
Disinfect the wound and throw a bandage on it. Larger cuts may require a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. You can use a belt or spare piece of clothing and tie it above the wound.
Shop: Fabric plaster strips
Hypothermia is one of the most serious hiking injuries and is the cooling of the core body temperature. Preventative efforts should always be made so that you never get to the treatment stage.
Plan your trip properly so that you aren’t spending lots of time standing around in the cold while you look at your map. Use equipment that is suited to the forecasted weather, snack regularly and have a flask of hot drink handy.
Recognising hypothermia is the first step.
The person may stop shivering – this means that their body is shutting down and no longer reacting to the extreme cold they are feeling. Call mountain rescue immediately.
Ensure that the person’s clothes are dry. Get into a survival bag alongside the patient so that your body heat warms them up.
Give the patient a hot drink to warm them up. If it gets to a stage where the person loses consciousness, every effort should be made to warm them up as they have a 50-50 chance of survival.
Read More: Top tips for hiking in winter
Hyperthermia is the opposite of hypothermia. It is the increase of body temperature which occurs when hiking in very hot conditions.
Ensure that you drink plenty of fluids whilst hiking in hot weather, and that you also have a hat to block the sun’s rays from directly hitting your head.
Identifying hyperthermia is important. Symptoms include sweating profusely, headaches, cramps and feeling ill, unconsciousness. Treatments include sipping water (do not take large sips), cooling down the core temperature by applying wet clothing to the skin and finding a shady spot to rest.
Read More: Tips for hiking safely in summer
Dehydration can happen faster than you think, especially in hot, dry countries. Even on short hikes. The trick to preventing dehydration while hiking is simple: drink plenty of water. Try to drink every 30 to 45 minutes (or more), even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Symptoms of dehydration are quite easy to diagnose in yourself. They can be:
- Feeling more thirsty than normal.
- Lethargy or lack of energy.
- Urine is a much darker shade of yellow than normal.
Treat dehydration in the same way as preventing it. Drink plenty of water and try not to hike during the hottest part of the day.
Severe dehydration often requires medical attention and being placed on a drip for a number of hours.
Shop: Water treatment tablets
Sunburn is always a danger in New Zealand, even on cooler overcast days.You should always have sunblock of at least 30 SPF and apply it before and during your hike regularly. Reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours or more if you are sweating or getting wet in the rain or river. Pop a cap or a hat on your head as well as wearing long sleeves and leggings/trousers if possible.
Sunburn can be a painful and irritating hiking injury. Aloe vera can help cool the skin, if it is a particularly bad burn, cool it with spare clothing soaked in water.
Shop: Aloe Vera Gel
I am the Queen of hiking headaches. Mine are usually caused by not drinking enough water or eating enough food. To prevent a headache, drink lots of water, stop regularly and snack.
Drink more water and skip any electrolyte additions. Try some salty snacks and hopefully that will ease your headache.
Shop: Hydration bladder packs
Bug bites can be difficult to prevent, especially when there are large swarms around. Insect repellent, is a must whilst hiking. A mosquito net to protect your face also prevents insects from biting your face. If you have a severe insect allergy, you should always carry appropriate emergency medicine (i.e. epi pen).
You can also cover up with loose clothing. Those little buggers will have a more difficult time trying to locate a tasty bit of skin to snack on.
Don’t scratch your bite. No matter how tempting it is. Apply an after bite lotion such as Calamine to help ease the itching.
Shop: Insect repellents
First Aid Kit
There are some basics which you should have in your first aid kit whilst hiking.
- Elastic strap
- Blister Plasters
- Duct tape
- Safety Pins
Shop first aid kits
Read More: What to pack in your hiking first aid kit
As always, prevention is better than cure, but you can’t prevent absolutely everything that may happen. However, if you have the knowhow and the treatments available to you, you’ll be as right as rain
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