There’s nothing more restorative than spending some time in the great outdoors. Going on a hike is healing for a lot of people — but what can you do if you get injured on your wilderness getaway?
It’s important to come prepared with basic first-aid and plenty of water to keep hydrated. Watching your step, having a traveling buddy and packing snacks are all other great ideas to make sure you’re covered in case of an accident.
However, sometimes an injury catches us at an inopportune time. Whether you have the right resources or not, here are a few pointers to keep in mind if an accident happens on a hike.
As a general rule, you should always (always!) have water with you on a hike. If you find yourself dehydrated, the best way to rehydrate your body is by taking small sips every two minutes. Drinking too much water suddenly can leave your body with an overwhelmed stomach. And if you were to get sick, throwing up your remaining fluids won’t help.
After taking small sips until you feel recovered, you can drink as much water as you’d like. If you don’t have water with you, walk slowly and stick to shady areas to prevent as much sweating as you can. Remember to not drink unsterilized water — especially stagnant pond water.
And, of course, do yourself a favor and invest in a water bottle that’s perfect for hiking and day trips.
One little misstep can leave you with an ankle injury — one of the most common hiking injuries there is. Aside from being painful and debilitating, being on a hike isn’t the most convenient place to have trouble walking.
In general, experts recommend following the “RICE” method when dealing with a foot or ankle injury. First Rest, then Ice and then follow with Compression and Elevation. Continue this process once every two hours or as often as needed.
If nothing else, lean on a friend or use a walking stick to avoid making the problem any worse. After your hike, assess your injury and continue the RICE method. It’s important to know when your foot injury warrants a doctor’s visit — because avoiding the clinic could potentially make your injury worse.
Another common problem hikers run into are sun or heat-related injuries. Even on a cloudy day, it’s possible to get burned or overheated, depending on your elevation and the available tree cover.
Always lather up with sunscreen and treat burns with aloe vera and cold compresses. Avoid popping blisters, especially with unsterilized tools, as this can lead to infection.
Low-temperature-related health issues like hypothermia — especially when you notice you’re still cold despite vigorous physical activity — are important to avoid. If possible, decrease your elevation and retreat to a warmer area immediately. Remember to keep your body moving to increase circulation of your blood.
Cuts and Bites
If you get stung by a bee, remove the stinger if you’re able. The same rule of thumb applies to splinters and other small foreign objects to prevent infection and further irritation. All hikers with known allergies to bees should travel with an Epi-pen. No exceptions.
Cuts and scrapes should be first cleaned with rubbing alcohol or clean water. To avoid bacteria, make sure you don’t use untreated river or pond water. After washing the injured area, cover the wound with an antibiotic ointment and bandage.
See? Being prepared for any eventuality out in the backcountry isn’t difficult! And it delivers great peace of mind. Need more help? Check out this DIY first aid kit so you’re always prepared!
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington