Venturing outdoors should be an energising, revitalising, and above all, an enjoyable experience for all involved. However there are a number hazards that come with disappearing into the wilderness.
Risks are all around, but highlighting them prior to your big excursion can help improve your vigilance and make you more aware of the various pitfalls and perils while you're traversing the countryside.
To avoid an unfortunate appearance of the first aid kit, Waterman's have outlined some of the most common injuries and discomforts you're likely to encounter and how to prevent them from happening to you!
Spending time outside puts you at risk of some sun exposure - a risk that is greatly enhanced when you're on a long hiking trip. The consequences can range from mildly irritation to extremely uncomfortable, particularly when heat stroke becomes a factor. To avoid sleepless nights, dehydration and even long-term skin damage, make sure you apply and reapply sun cream and cover up as much as possible during the hottest parts of the day.
Always pack long sleeve shirts and trousers that you take off and put on easily when required and always pack sun cream with a high SPF rating and aloe vera for treating any sunburnt areas.
Blisters are the nemesis of all hikers, ramblers and everyday walkers. Blisters are caused by friction and irritation within the shoe - when consistent rubbing occurs, fluid builds up between the skin, bursting, and causing that horrible abrasive sensation that will not only torment you for the subsequent miles ahead, but are likely to only get worse.
To avoid blisters you need to equip yourself with a great pair of well fitted shoes and socks and then ensure that your feet stay dry. If there is a build up of moisture occuring, whether that be due to internal sweat or external rain, always change your socks regularly.
If you feel that ominous hot feeling on a certain rubbing point (that usually signals of the impending arrival of a blister) make sure you attend to it with athletic tape. If you already have a blister, antiseptic cream, plasters and athletic tape are the answer you've been looking for.
One of the most common irritants you may encounter over the course of your outdoor jaunt will be insect bites. Whether you're bothered by everyday flying insects such as mosquitoes or more pernicious horse flies, keeping your skin covered is your easiest method of protection. The second weapon in your bug bite arsenal is a good insect repellent - you can find sprays, gels and creams designed to keep flying and crawling pests as far away from you as possible.
If you've already been bitten, on-the-go treatments such as ice, aloe vera and honey can offer relief from inflammation and swelling which are byproducts of itchy, irritated skin.
Chaffing is something we don't like to talk about, but it's something that every medium and long distance hiker has probably experienced either once or twice.
That horrible rubbing feeling you experience between your skin and your clothes, backpack or hip straps is something that usually crops up when you been walking for a while, but there are steps you can take to avoid it. To beat the friction avoid cotton clothes and opt instead for breathable synthetic fabrics that won't stick to your skin when you get hot. Keep your skin as clean and dry as you can while you're out walking and treat chaffing with lotion at night.
Cramps really take the enjoyment out of any tough hill climb and that feeling of your calf muscles contracting or your toes curling can feel like the symptom of an injury... But what's really causing them?
Cramping in your muscles is most often triggered by dehydration, so to alleviate or prevent the onset of these painful episodes, drink a lot of water, take electrolyte tablets and stretch out your muscles gently before you walk.
Traversing uneven land, navigating jagged rocks and walking over wet ground can be the perfect storm for a sprained ankle.
If your ankle twists or turns in an unnatural way, this can overstretch or even tear the ligaments in your ankle, causing pain, swelling and restricted motion when walking. The rest and 'walking-it-off' method can work, but if you want to avoid the worst injuries, try and be as self aware as you can. As a hiker, you need to have a good sense of when, where and how to avoid risks and hazards - always choose the easiest path and have a hikers stick to hand for support, stabilisation and even testing the ground to see if it's safe to walk on.
Exhaustion & Fatigue
There's a difference between tiredness from healthy exertion and a draining feeling of exhaustion and weakness.
Exhaustion is the end result of lack of food and water, coupled with a lengthy walking time and this is an accumulative thing, so always ensure there's fuel in the fire. Don't go too long without a drink, keep hydrated throughout the day and let your body rest in the evening. To avoid a potentially draining hike, ensure you plan your route carefully, cut down mileage where necessary and identify where you need to navigate around any complex routes.