Here are five of the most common hiking injuries and how to handle them:
A common minor injury that even seasoned hikers experience. A small and seemingly harmless wound can turn an enjoyable hike into misery.
Blisters are formed from constant friction, pressure, and moisture that accumulates on a hot spot. They form on toes, ankles, and near your Achilles when shoes don’t fit properly.
Wearing moisture-wicking socks and breaking in new boots will help prevent blisters, but if despite all your best efforts, you still develop blisters, here’s how to handle them properly:
- Wash your hands before treating the affected area. Sterilize the spot with an iodine swab.
- If the blister is just a red, raw spot, cover it with antibiotic ointment and adhesive bandage before wrapping it with duct tape. Leave the tape in place until you return home.
- If the spot has turned into a blister, it needs to be treated. You’ve probably heard not to pop a blister but if you’re out on the trail, it will more than likely burst into a dirty sock or shoe, so it’s better to drain it yourself in a clean environment by cleaning the surrounding area with soap and water. Sterilize a pin, splinter probe, or knife with alcohol, a flame, or boiling water and use it to prick the bottom of the blister. Drain the blister and treat it with an antibiotic ointment before covering it with gauze. Secure the wound with some duct tape.
Cuts and Serious Wounds
Small cuts are manageable and will only require some antiseptic and bandages. Large and deep wounds usually need medical assistance.
If you or your companion get injured during your hike, keep the wound clean and keep the injured area elevated to avoid excessive bleeding. Light bleeding can be treated using a clean gauze pad. Press it lightly on the affected area. Once the bleeding subsides, clean it with a mild antiseptic and apply some antibiotic ointment. Cover it with some fresh bandages, and you’re set.
For deeper lacerations that won’t stop bleeding despite the compression, seek immediate medical assistance. Walking will increase blood loss, sit or lie down and keep the area elevated above the level of your heart to slow down the bleeding.
It is essential to take the necessary precautions to avoid frostbite when hiking in cold weather. You get frostbite when the skin or underlying tissue freezes in extremely low temperatures or you get wet and cannot dry quickly enough in very cold conditions. Be cautious in dealing with frostbite since severe cases can lead to critical damage and amputation.
To treat minor frostbite, slowly warm up the affected area using body heat and clothing. You may use warm (not hot) water if it’s available. A repeated thaw-freeze cycle can destroy underlying tissue and make the condition worse so avoid warming the spot until you’re resting in an area where you can stay warm. Cut your hike short and go to the nearest hospital if the frostbite is severe or if you can’t regain feeling after warming the area.
Rough terrain increases the risk of spraining ankles.
Severe cases will require you to rest and seek medical assistance. For mild cases, hikers need to apply something cold to the affected area. Cold river water or ice packs are a natural anti-inflammatory and will help to accelerate the healing process. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers can also help reduce pain. After extended rest, you should be able to push through with the hike.
When treating sprains, avoid removing your shoes or boots as this will allow increased swelling preventing you from getting your shoe back on.
Direct contact with certain plants, animals, and other irritants can cause skin irritation, discoloration, and swelling. While rashes are often not serious, they can lead to blisters, redness, and long-term skin damage.
Your best option in treating skin rashes is to remove the irritant with water and soap. If the skin feels like it’s burning, apply a thin layer of zinc oxide, or cortisone lotion for an itchy rash. Consult your doctor if the itching or rash doesn’t go away.
Avoid these hiking injuries by careful planning and preparation. Carry a fully stocked first aid kit that contains remedies to these injuries.