Health hazards of mountain hiking

November 2, 2010 by  

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Now, hiking can be fun but there are some dangers involved. In this 3rd part of the series on mountain hiking, I am giving you info on the health hazards you should know about.

Altitude sickness. One of the major health hazards of mountain hiking is altitude sickness which usually starts at 2500 m and above.  Make sure that your body has adjusted to the altitude you are in before you do any strenuous exercise. You should especially take care if this is your first time in high altitudes. The air up there is much thinner, with less oxygen content. According to experts, going up too fast within a short period of time by any form of transport is dangerous because the body does not get the chance to acclimatize. The symptoms of altitude sickness are dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and sleep disturbance and can be life-threatening.

Overexertion. Choose the hike or hike that is suited to your physical fitness or the capability of your child. Hiking may be good for the heart but it is not an activity for those with weak hearts. Overexertion can lead to respiratory distress, heart problems, or stroke. The walking guides give you the level of difficulty, the distance, the altitude difference, and the approximate duration. Know what you are capable of. Know your limits.

Dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids especially during long walks. Because of the cold temperatures, you may not feel thirsty but you still sweat during a climb. Dehydration can be dangerous.

Sunburn. In many of our hikes, we were greeted with beautiful sunshine even though the valleys below were covered with clouds. But the clear air and the absence of clouds also mean strong solar UV radiation. It is cold up there that you might not feel the sun burn your skin. Use sun protection such sunglasses, sun caps, and sunscreens!

Falls. Even the most experienced hikers and mountaineers can fall and get injured. Injuries can range from sprained ankles to more serious fractures. Watch your step and tread carefully. Do not rush. If you feel unsure of the terrain, turn back.

Hypothermia. The weather up in the mountains can change drastically. Be sure you have something warm to put on, plus a wind breaker or a rain jacket in case of rain. Without the sun, nights in the mountains can be very cold. “When the outside environment gets too cold or the body’s heat production decreases, hypothermia occurs. Hypothermia is defined as having a core body temperature less than 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C.” Hypothermia can be fatal!

Wild animals. There are wild animals out there but they usually stay away from humans. It is thus advisable to stay on the official pathways and pay attention to warning signs. Do not approach or touch any animals you may see.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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