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Essential Tips for Preventing and Managing Common Hiking Injuries


This article is intended to provide general knowledge and should not be used to replace medical care or diagnosis. Always consult a doctor if you are concerned about any injury, pain, swelling, or other physical condition. Your safety is your responsibility. Thankfully, most hiking adventures go off without a hitch. You head down the trail, take in the sights, bask in the serenity, and return home happy—and in one piece. Unfortunately, given the variable conditions, human error, and, in the case of backcountry hiking, the inherent remoteness, there’s always a chance that something could go wrong on the trail. If something happens at home, we can go urgent care or to the doctor. When we are out in the wilderness, it’s just us, and so we have to take a little bit more care of ourselves.

Before You Go

Prepare yourself for the trek.

  • Experts agree that taking care on the trail starts with planning and preparing ahead of a hike—in particular, training properly for the effort, familiarizing yourself with the conditions, creatures, and dangers you might encounter—and then acting responsibly on the adventure.

Review the Leave No Trace principles.

  • These guidelines offer a time-tested model for both preserving the outdoors and keeping yourself and those around you safe in wild places.

Pack the Essentials

  • Any time you’re headed outdoors, carrying a well-stocked first aid kit on hiking adventures is a must.

Consider a wilderness first-aid class

  • Many locations offer first-aid and outdoor survival skills classes. Equip yourself with enough knowledge to decide when it’s time to evacuate the trail or access assistance, and always inform someone of where and how long you plan to hike, in case of an emergency.

Common Hiking Injuries

Below, we review the most common hiking injuries, including tips for preventing them and general steps for handling them if they do arise.


Preventative Tips:

  • Plan ahead and prepare. Know how to identify potential allergens such as poison oak, poison ivy, and certain insects. If you have severe reactions to specific allergens, talk with your doctor and pack an epinephrine auto-injector.
  • Cover up. Long sleeves and pants can help prevent allergens from touching your skin.
  • Watch where you step and what you grab. Avoid touching unknown plants or creatures.
  • Prevent spread. Wash your hands and pets well after being in areas with potential allergens.

What To Do About Allergies:

  • Keep allergy-relief products in your first-aid kit. Consider Tecnu products and antihistamines like Benadryl. For severe allergies, have an epinephrine auto-injector on hand.


Animal Attacks

Preventative Tips:

  • Store items securely. Use bear canisters or bags for food and aromatic items.
  • Keep your distance. Respect wildlife and avoid getting too close.
  • Make noise. Sing, talk loudly, or use a bell to avoid surprising animals.
  • Hike in daylight hours. Be aware of when animals are most active.
  • Identify tracks and scat. Knowing what animals are in the area can help you stay safe.

What To Do About Animal Attacks:

  • Know how to respond to different animals. For mountain lions, face them and make yourself large. For bears, remember: “If it’s black, fight back. If it’s brown, lay down.” Seek medical attention if bitten.



Preventative Tips:

  • Wear properly fitting gear. Ensure shoes and socks fit well and are broken in.
  • Practice good foot hygiene. Keep toenails trimmed and feet dry.
  • Treat high-risk areas ahead of time. Use paper medical tape on common blister areas.
  • Stop hiking when you feel friction. Address hot spots immediately to prevent blisters.

What To Do About Blisters:

  • Drain painful blisters. Clean the area and puncture the blister to drain fluid. Cover with paper tape and a second layer of adhesive tape.



Preventative Tips:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink water and consume electrolytes.
  • Stretch appropriately. Take breaks to stretch and warm up before hiking.
  • Be prepared for menstrual cramps. Carry pain-relief medication and consider applying heat.

What To Do About Cramps:

  • Stop and stretch: Massage the cramped muscle and apply heat if possible.
  • Electrolytes:  Dehydration can also be a reason for cramps, so it is advisable to be hydrated with electrolytes in clean drinking water.


Cuts, Scrapes, and Abrasions

Preventative Tips:

  • Dress for your surroundings. Wear long pants and gloves in areas with sharp plants or rocks.
  • Pay attention. Stay aware of your surroundings and watch your step.

What To Do About Cuts, Scrapes, and Abrasions:

  • Control bleeding and clean the wound. Use a rinsing syringe if available, then bandage the wound and monitor for infection.



Preventative Tips:

  • Check the weather. Be aware of climate conditions and adjust plans accordingly.
  • Block the sun. Wear sun-protective clothing and use sunscreen.
  • Carry extra layers. Be prepared for changing temperatures and weather conditions.
  • Recognize signs of danger. Know symptoms of heat stroke, hypothermia, and other exposure-related conditions.

What To Do About Exposure:

  • Get out of extreme conditions. Find shelter, hydrate, warm up, or cool down as necessary. Evacuate if conditions become severe.


High-Altitude Illness

Preventative Tips:

  • Train for elevation. Prepare with cardio and strength training.
  • Acclimatize gradually. Increase sleeping altitude over a few days.
  • Avoid overexertion. Take it slow, stay hydrated, and avoid alcohol.
  • Recreate high, sleep low. Set up basecamp at lower elevations.

What To Do About High-Altitude Illness:

  • Descend to ease symptoms. If feeling unwell, go downhill to alleviate symptoms.


Insect Bites and Stings

Preventative Tips:

  • Repel pests. Use insect repellent and avoid peak insect activity times.
  • Cover up. Wear long pants and sleeves, and check for ticks regularly.
  • Check surroundings and gear. Be vigilant about potential insects in your gear and surroundings.
  • Carry medication. Have necessary medication for allergic reactions.

What To Do About Insect Bites and Stings:

  • Move to safety and remove stingers or ticks. Clean the wound, apply ice for swelling, and monitor for allergic reactions.


Sprains and Strains

Preventative Tips:

  • Prep your body. Engage in cross-training and stretching.
  • Wear proper-fitting gear. Ensure shoes and packs fit well to avoid trips and strains.
  • Consider braces. Wear braces if you have a history of sprains or strains.

What To Do About Sprains and Strains:

  • Immobilize the injury and evacuate. Clean any associated wounds and seek medical attention.



By preparing thoroughly and acting responsibly on the trail, you can minimize the risk of injury and handle common hiking mishaps effectively. Always prioritize your safety and know when to seek professional medical care.