With the onset of spring, people get more chances to explore different outdoor activities as the sun set late in most corners of the world. An outdoor activity can start right from a simple walk in a local park to indulging in different non competitive outdoor sports. If you love nature and like to push yourself a little bit further by coming out of your comfort zone and discovering the rugged outdoor world, then you’re probably a regular at trekking. Some of the popular and fastest growing recreational activities – nature walking, hiking, trekking, bushwalking, rafting and similar experiences through wilderness can be immensely gratifying provided one is aware of the common illnesses and their preventive measures. Let us check out the most common illnesses common to a outdoor guy:
Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the most common illness a trekker is prone to. As one ascends to greater heights, low air pressure with reduced oxygen molecule causes breathing problems. Headache, fatigue, dizziness, gasping for breath, loss of appetite and sleep are the common symptoms of a mild AMS. In addition, fluid leak from brain and lung capillaries can cause fluid buildup in our body. Such a situation can be life-threatening if not addressed immediately. So how to combat AMS? Follow the tips below:
• First get a physical examination done 4 to 6 weeks in advance of your journey.
• Health issue, if identified, can be treated at this stage or one may use this time for immunization.
• Make sure the doctor assesses your general health and screen for ailments like anemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, asthma and cardiovascular diseases.
• Also a dental check up is a must as an abscessed tooth can ruin your exploration.
• Avoid getting too much exhausted and keep away from overwork.
• Maintain a balance in your hydration and nutrition levels.
• For non Himalayan regions, take adequate vaccination against mumps, measles, hemophilus influenza, hepatitis A and B, typhoid and tetanus.
• Prepare a medical kit after consulting with your physician.
• Your medical kit should contain – Sunscreen, bandage, and blister kit, topical antibiotic cream, insect repellent with DEETN (N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), water filter with iodine tablets, Acetaminophen, Diamox, anti-inflammatory agent, asthma inhaler and nasal decongestant.
Dehydration is another common problem while trekking. Slowly adjust your body with high altitudes and changing environment, making sure you sleep at a lower altitude. Keep your body hydrated and take necessary rest. Eat carbohydrate and potassium rich diet while trekking, and take warm fluids at regular intervals. Avoid alcohol completely. Stay away from drugs or smoking. Stop climbing the moment your body starts showing signs of altitude sickness.
While hiking, it’s very usual for a hiker to get a nasty bug bite, sudden slip on and excessive sunburn. Common maladies for a hiker are blisters, sprains, chafing and strains. Blisters are mostly caused by non-supportive footwear. Walking at a stretch for eight hours in tropical weather condition causes feet swelling. Therefore buying the right kind of footwear is a must. It has also been found that a comfortable shoe has turned into an immensely uncomfortable wear after a day’s hike with swelling feet. So it’s always advisable to cover few short hiking destinations before embarking on a multi day trek so that your feet get adjusted with the new footwear. Always buy lightweight and nicely ventilated shoes if you are going to hike during summers to avoid blisters. Shoes with sturdy and thick soles with good traction are ideal for hiking.
To prevent blisters on your feet, use appropriate trekking shoes. All sports shoes or sneakers are not ideal for trekking, so check the specifications before you purchase. When it comes to socks, do not buy cotton ones as it doesn’t insulate. Synthetic and merino wool socks that snugly fit are perfect for hiking. Few tips to beat blisters:
• Trim your toe nails
• A regular trouble spot should be treated before you start hiking
• Address a blister immediately with band aids and other antibacterial product
• Your feet should be exposed to air frequently
• Use clean socks. (You can wear the same clothes for a week, but extra supplies of undergarments and socks are must to stay clean).
• Wash your feet every day before bed and pat them dry.
Joint sprains and strains too are very common. Lot of walking, slipping on rocks, roots and sudden torsions can tweak your ankle, knee or even your hip to a large extent. So, a high ankle boot with proper weight on your back aborts your chances to slip on. Avoid heavy weight shoes for day long hiking to avoid heavy feet. It’s more likely to slip off if ones feet are dragging. Few exercises can help you to condition and strengthen your muscle and increase their flexibility. Using a kickboard while swimming and practicing different squats and lunges are great strength training that helps to build a better backside and well toned legs. Build your body religiously and give sufficient time to adapt to the rigorous trails. At intervals raise your feet and use trekking poles.
There’s nothing worse than chafing during a hike. It’s an irritation of skin caused by skin to skin contact and rubbing of skin with sweat clothes. Chafing is more likely to occur in inner glutes, thighs, groin, armpits and even nipples. Follow the tips to avoid this absolute agony:
• Do not use cotton underwear. Instead go for synthetic underwear to avoid chafing in the thighs.
• Wear at least 6” long leg undies for summer destinations to protect your upper thigh from friction.
• Use bag balm, zinc oxide, hydrocortisone creams and Vaseline.
• Wash crotch, armpit and rear areas regularly. (Avoid washing at the water sources).
• Do not tuck your shirt inside your hiking pants to avoid dripping of sweat and soaking your underwear.
Stomach ailments too are a common occurrence in the outdoors, mainly due to the change in drinking water. A high chlorine or iron content often leads to loose motion and diarrhea in the hills. Carry drugs to treat the water as well as medication to cure the upset stomach. Carry ORS (Oral Dehydration Sachet) to hydrate the body should you suffer from loose motion to substitute the severe water loss.
Trekking and hiking in the backcountry can be rewarding if done safely. Exploring the unknown can be dangerous with severe bruises and cuts but the risk of the injury can be minimized if one remains aware of the consequences and knows how to prevent and combat. If you are a novice but willing to become a backpacker, this list will certainly help you to hit the trail right without needing to get airlifted off. As to quote Paul Petzoldt, the author of The New Wilderness Handbook, “Avoidance of survival situations is more important than learning how to get out of a survival situation”.