10 things every hiker should know about to avoid illness and injury
- Bring your own drinking water, 2-4 liters depending on the heat.
Beavers and hikers like the same mountain passes. Beavers carry and excrete the giardia parasite in their feces. Hikers can excrete cryptosporidium. Mountain streams can be contaminated with giardia or cryptosporidium parasites.
- Use antibacterial wipes or hand sterilizing gel after going to the toilet and before eating.
The bacterial contamination rate on treated hands is greatly reduced.
- Protect your skin from the sun.
Sunscreens need to be applied 30 minutes before going out in the sun. You are going to be outside and higher up all day; air will be clearer allowing more UV light to penetrate; and clouds don’t filter UV rays much.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV protection for your eyes whenever in open sun.
You will get your old-age cataracts a few years later.
- Wear long trousers.
Wear also socks, and hiking boots that support your ankles especially if there is lots of bush and scrabble on the hike. Scrapes and falls will result in less soil contamination and stumbles, in fewer sprains. Also, fewer deer ticks or their larvae can attach.
- Inspect and scrub your entire skin surface.
You should check hidden areas (behind ears and groin area) and comb your hair after every hike, all season long, to avoid attachment by deer ticks. Remove ticks gently with tweezers and be sure you have the head. Deer ticks or their larvae are frequently infected by the Lyme disease bacteria which is transmitted only after 24 hours of the attached ticks sucking on your blood.
- Ensure that you have had a tetanus immune booster injection within the last 10 years (to avoid an unnecessary ER visit).
Hikers nick their hands and scratch their legs in the woods and may get dirt in the wound. Dirt is where tetanus bacteria live.
- Ensure that you have been immunized against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Humans tend to urinate around the trails. One splash of hepatitis contaminated water into the eye or mouth could infect you. You may have to assist another hiker who is bleeding.
- Bring a first-aid kit.
Fill it up with antibacterial wipes, an antiseptic, antibiotic cream, dressings and moleskin to treat and cover all wounds. Wash thoroughly with clean water first. Bacteria are everywhere. The golden time to deny them access to your denuded flesh is immediately after injury.
- Plan your return so that you don’t have to rush at the end of the day.
Fatigue at the end of the day reduces attention and reaction time making you prone to making poor decisions and to more serious injury.