Hiking 101 from Health Professionals: Part Two – Safety Tips

November 30th, 2020

If you read Hiking 101 from Health Professionals and you’re ready to hit the trails, check out these safety tips to make sure your hike goes smoothly. Dr. Conte and Dr. Saxena are back with more answers to some of the most common hiking questions to keep you safe.

Any suggestion for how people can prep for a fun and safe day hiking? 

Dr. Conte: I recommend to all of my patients to enjoy hiking to his ensure that you have well-fitting and very supportive footwear preferably a hiking boot that supports above the ankle with secure laces to provide immobilization to the ankle and reduce the risk of ankle sprains. Full pants or full shirts are also recommended to protect from the sun in the elements and biting insects. A backpack is also helpful as a common mistake is to have a heavy backpack which is not well secured tilt and then because the high-grade to lose balance injuring the knee foot or ankle or hip. 

Dr. Saxena: A first-aid kit, sunscreen, an amply water supply, and some small snacks are very important. It is important to know where you are going and to try to follow a trail. Most parks have a website with maps and guides so it is a good idea to have these before you head out. When hiking in unfamiliar areas it is best to start with shorter hikes and build your way up as you learn the area. It may sound obvious but good footwear is crucial; you definitely should not be hiking in flip-flops! Wear a good pair of all-purpose well-padded shoes with a good pair of socks. In addition, it is important to take breaks at reasonable intervals – every 20 or 30 minutes – and stretch your hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves before, during, and after your hike. Lastly, for those with a history of lower extremity or back pain trekking poles can be very helpful during hiking; they will enable you to distribute your weight evenly during your hike and hopefully will prevent an overuse injury and are helpful for balance on uneven trails. 

What would you suggest a person to do if they are injured while hiking?

Dr. Saxena: The difficult thing about being injured when hiking is that you have limited access to help. The most important way to prevent an injury from becoming a major problem is to plan and prepare for your hike. It is always a good idea to hike in a group (or at least a pair) and to have a first aid kit and an ample supply of water. It is imperative to plan your hike and it is best to start early in the day. 

If you are injured on a trail it is important to sit and relax (as best you can) and assess the situation. If you have cell service that would be ideal, but often times you won’t and you may need to send someone for help if you don’t think you can walk out on your own. A walking stick or a sturdy branch can act as a crutch if you think you walk out with assistance. Even summer days can turn into chilly nights that can lead to hypothermia making it important to start hikes and plan to finish hikes early in the day. 

What is one safety tip you want to advise people of? 

Dr. Conte: One tip is to always bring your cell phone when you hike in case you have an injury and are unable to get yourself safely out of the woods and also to hike with a friend or partner and if not possible to at least have a friend or family member aware of when and where he will be hiking and when to reasonably expect to back in case of a more serious injury.

Drs. Saxena and Conte both see patients in Mercerville, Pennington and Princeton. For more information or to make an appointment, please click here.

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