The Top Four Most Common Medical Issues In The Wilderness

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Any trip off the beaten path can cause medical issues at any given time. Preparing for those medical issues is the best way to avoid having a problem that interrupts your trip or causes hospitalization. Although most of us don’t carry a complete tactical first aid kit when heading out on a hike, some feel this is necessary. If you are of the persuasion, you would somewhat be prepared for the most common issues and, in the process, keep your pack light.

 Dehydration:  Dehydration is probably one of the most common medical issues you’ll encounter in the wilderness. The best way to counter this is to have a way to filter water so that it is safe to drink. A water filter, water purification tablets, and a way to boil the water would be ideal. Carry at least two liters of water on your person at all times. Dehydration doesn’t just mean a lack of water; it also means a lack of electrolytes. Having electrolyte packets that have sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium would be an even better prep in addition to having a way to make water clean. Stop at least once an hour to rest and drink water. Please pay attention to your urine because once it turns yellow, dehydration has set in.

 Diarrhea:  Drinking bad water will lead to diarrhea which makes dehydration worse. Even if you have clean water, being in the country will expose you to bacteria like E. coli or protozoa like Giardia. Maintain proper hygiene by treating all water before consuming, washing hands before eating and after using the toilet, using hand sanitizer, and keeping a clean camp kitchen. Hygiene is the best way to prevent diarrhea, but once you already have the runs, treatment is essential. Over-the-counter antidiarrheal tablets are best for treating this issue, but the tannins found in tea and acorns are known to help reduce the severity of diarrhea.

Insect Bites:  Most of us don’t consider insect bites a medical issue, but they can be. Prevention of insect bites is the best way. Wearing light-colored long pants tucked into your socks and a long-sleeved shirt tucked into your pants is probably the best way to use a barrier to prevent insect bites. Checking yourself daily for insects such as ticks will help prevent long-term embedding. If you find a tick, use tweezers to pull it straight up and out to remove it quickly. Keep an eye on tick bites in case a bullseye red rash appears. See a medical professional if such a rash appears after a tick bite. A DEET spray to keep ticks and mosquitoes at bay while outdoors may help prevent bites. Always carry allergy medications for those who have allergies to bee stings and wasps.

Physical Injuries:  Avoid physical injuries such as eye injuries from branches flailing back into your face, sprained ankles, or breaks by being careful with your footing. Using a walking stick or slowing down to keep from losing balance is important. Physical injuries are some of the worst medical issues you will likely encounter while in the wilderness. Having a first aid kit with compression bandages, a splint, gauze, povidone-iodine, bacitracin, and other items needed for injuries is a great idea. Although having a severe physical injury is unlikely, minor physical injuries can impede the trip from moving forward. In short, it’s hard to hike on a sprained ankle. It’s also hard to see where you’re going if you’ve had a branch shoved in your eye and you can’t see out of it now. Again, prevention is the best course of action, but having a small first aid kit for treatment can make getting through the trip easier.


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