Healthwise: Tips from a doctor to keep hikers out of the ER

Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 10:50 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - “Be Prepared” is not just a motto for the Boy Scouts. It is the smart thing to do before you plan to hike anywhere.

Dr. Brian Kendall, an emergency medicine doctor at Texas Tech Physicians, says he sees a variety of medical issues in the emergency room due to common mistakes people make before a hike.

“Not wearing proper equipment, so not having proper footwear,” he said. “Not knowing the trail that they’re going to be going on. And the difficulty level that that trail is going to be. I think not taking water is a big one, too.”

People who start their hikes well-hydrated are more likely to perform better.

In addition, dehydration can sneak up on a hiker while on the trail; the condition can take its toll.

“If you’re dehydrated, your brain isn’t gonna be able to function as well, your heart won’t be able to function as well, your kidneys won’t function as well,” he said.

A multiple-day excursion calls for more than just water. Kendall recommends taking along electrolyte tablets to add to the water to keep a hiker at their best.

Every hiker also needs quick access to a first aid kit. The kit should include Advil or Tylenol for headaches, Benadryl for an allergic reaction along with anti-itching cream, anti-nausea medication and, of course, many bandages.

“Gauze, bandages and ace wraps, you can use those for a lot of different thing, like making a sling, or bandaging a wound or use it to help splint an ankle or a knee,” Kendall stated.

If a hiker does not have time for a first aid course before the hike, Kendall said many YouTube videos on first aid are available to help a hiker feel more confident in their basic first aid techniques.

Finally, it is always better to hike with a buddy. Hiking with a friend and telling others when and where the hike will be taking place could be the one tip that saves someone’s life in an emergency.