Health, First-aid and Safety Issues When Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Hiking is a strenuous exercise and it will cause muscle soreness and fatigue. But there are other effects that hiking may have on your health. It is better to be well informed about them before you begin your journey, so you can be fully prepared to handle them. Here are some of the health and body issues you should take steps to prevent as you go on your thru-hike from Georgia to Maine.

1. Ass Chafe
If you attempt to go on a long hike that exceeds 10 miles, expect to have ass chafe. This condition also occurs when you attempt to hike in the rain without adequate rain gear. The cheeks of your buttocks will rub together and you will feel the soreness with every step you take. Ass chafe may also occur due to intense heat in summer. In addition to your buttocks, it may also affect your groin area. Investing in good rain gear as well as using baby or diaper powder and body glide can help to prevent and relieve the pain caused by ass chafe.

2. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a terrible condition caused by bacteria carried by deer ticks. The states that the Appalachian Trail travels through have a high occurrence of the disease. Unfortunately, many hikers who have had horrific encounters with this disease did not realise that they had contracted it early. Its initial symptoms are similar to the pains you experience from hiking for long hours such as exhaustion and joint pains. To protect yourself, you must check yourself for ticks every single day. Also, wear a long sleeve shirt and spray your pants and shirt with Permethrin.

3. Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when the temperature of the body drops to a level at which the muscle and brain can no longer function effectively. The principal causes of this condition include: insufficient clothing, wetness from rain, snow, or hail, fatigue, dehydration and exhaustion. The only way to stop hypothermia from preventing you from completing your hike is to wear only synthetic fabrics or wool and avoid cotton. Preserve a set of dry clothes for sleeping and ensure that you use a sleeping bag that is warm. Preferably, you should use a waterproof bag to ensure dryness. Also, eat enough food and stay hydrated.

4. Heat Conditions
Along the Appalachian Trail, particularly in the Virginias, water may be insufficient during hot and humid days. This may expose hikers to the risks of stroke and exhaustion. You need to be aware of various problems caused by heat including: sunburn, heat cramps, and stroke. Sunburn occurs commonly in the Virginias when the trees are still bear. Heat cramps occur when the body loses a lot of salt due to excessive sweating. Heat stroke is life threatening and it can happen when the body’s natural cooling system fails. Body temperature may be as high as 106 degrees. To prevent heat related health issues, stay hydrated and wear breathable clothing.

5. Weight Loss
Hiking for up to 10 miles or more daily will lead to rapid weight loss. You will be burning a large number of calories (probably greater than you can burn during aerobic exercises or going to the gym daily). So be prepared to lose weight and take clothing that will fit you after you start losing weight. Your waist line could shrink by as much as 3 inches within the first 10 days. For ladies, this could also mean having to wear smaller bras.

6. Hemorrhoids
If you live off a terrible diet with little dietary fibre, you may experience hemorrhoids while you are on the trail. You will need a large number of calories (at least 8,000) for a 10 mile hike every day. So you will have to eat a lot packaged food to meet your daily calorie requirement. However, you should ensure that you eat food that is balanced, nutritious and friendly to your digestive system so you can avoid getting hemorrhoids.

7. Knee Damage
Due to the strain you will place on your lower limbs while climbing rocks, boulders and high mountains, you could easily injure your knees. You need to be sensitive to your body signs and take a rest if you feel you cannot go on walking. Always walk with a trekking pole when you are ascending or descending a cliff or mountain. If you fall off the cliff, don’t panic. Blow your whistle and ask fellow hikers for help. If you find yourself in an emergency while hiking alone, do not try to add more strain to your injured knee, instead stay still and wait for an experienced hiker to help you.

Those are some of the prominent health conditions that you need to be aware of when you are going on a multi-day or thru hike on the A.T. Plan ahead and take necessary precautions so you can avoid them or reduce their effects on your journey.