When the weather finally begins to heat up, we all are itching to get outside and take it all in. The transition into summer is always such a relief, especially if you are not a big fan of hiking or playing outside in the colder weather.
But as we all get ready to go into the great outdoors, we need to make some considerations for the sun. The sun, even in weather that is not extremely hot, can sneak up on us until we find ourselves suddenly overheated and in trouble of suffering heat exhaustion.
You can take steps to prepare for a warm weather hike ahead of time, but there are also some things you can do to take care of yourself if you are already out on the trail.
Before You Hike
Some preparations you make before venturing into the heat will not only make you more comfortable for your hike, but can ensure that you stay healthy during the hike. Here are some things you should consider:
- Hat: Having a wide-brimmed sun hat will keep the sun off your face, head, and your neck, as well as limiting the amount of eye strain the sun can inflict on you. A baseball hat will only shield your eyes, but a wide-brimmed hat protects more. There are also many hats out there now that have UV protection, which will help keep your skin safe from the sun as well.
- Sunscreen: Not only is a sunburn painful and puts your skin at risk for skin cancer, but it also heats up your body and makes heat exhaustion more possible. Once your skin is burnt, you will require more intake of water to try to keep you cool.
- Head out early: Get on the hiking trail right as the sun is peaking up. This can help you get a good way through the hike before the heat of the day descends upon you.
- Water, water, water: Not only should you carry more water than you think you would need, but you should start hydrating the day or two before your planned hike. You will help protect your body from the heat and dehydration.
- Pack electrolyte replenishing snacks: Packing salty snacks, like trail mix or chips, can help you keep electrolytes in your body while you are sweating.
Out on the Hike
If you find yourself overheating out on the trail, there are some things you can to do to help yourself.
- Find shade: Stopping in the shade will help get you out of the sun and let your body cool itself off.
- Hydrate: You should be drinking the water you brought with you all throughout the hike. If you are feeling cold in spite of the heat, start drinking more water. You should be sweating. If you have stopped sweating and are feeling cold, you could be in trouble from the heat.
- Get your feet up: If you are overheated and lightheaded, lay yourself down in the shade and put your feet up. This will help put the blood back in your head and let your body cool itself back down.
- Loosen your clothes: If you are wearing layers or constricting clothing, your body could have a harder time cooling off. Loosening up anything that can be and removing all layers will give more room for wind to blow through and let you cool yourself down.
- Make a damp cloth: Use some of your water to dampen a rag, cloth, or sponge. Then place the rag over your neck, hands, feet, head, wrists, and ankles to help cool yourself down. Putting your feet in water will also cool you down quickly.
- Get help: If you are still not feeling well, call for help either with your phone or by asking a fellow hiker for help. Heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke which can be life-threatening.
Signs of Trouble
It can be difficult to help yourself if you are too far gone with heat exhaustion, so you will need to watch yourself as well as anyone hiking with you to be sure everyone is staying healthy and safe.
Heat exhaustion is what happens before heat stroke. Your body is overheating and dehydrated. If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it will turn into heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness and needs to be treated immediately. Your body temperature has reached over 104 degrees and cannot cool down. As a result, your organs will become overheated and become damaged, making them stop working. This is why treating heat exhaustion symptoms is so crucial; you need to make sure you are not going to get heat stroke.
Signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Inability to urinate or dark-colored urine
- Feeling cold or clammy in the heat
- Heat cramps
- Shallow breathing or quick heartbeat
- Heavy sweating
- Fatigue or overtiredness
- Feeling feverish
It is a good idea to get yourself checked out, even if you think you only have heat exhaustion. Dehydration is nothing to mess around with and you could be misreading the symptoms of heat stroke.
Signs of heat stoke include:
- Confusion or loss of consciousness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- No sweat
- Severe headache
- Shallow breathing
- Skin is hot to the touch
- Rapid heartbeat
- Irrational irritability
If you or anyone hiking with you begins to see these signs, you need to get medical help immediately. Likewise if you come upon another hiker seeming to suffer from these symptoms as well.
Hiking in the summer can be fun and enjoyable, but you do not want to put yourself at risk or put yourself in danger of heat exhaustion. Not only will your hike be ruined, but you could be putting yourself in medical peril. With proper precautions and planning, however, you can have a great hike even in the hottest days of summer. Just be smart, plan well, and take adequate water breaks throughout your hike to give your body a chance to cool down.
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