Summer in Minnesota brings beautiful weather and lively outdoor activities. When the weather gets warmer, we can’t help but be drawn outside to enjoy it. Activities like taking walks, roasting s’mores on a bonfire, and going to the lake all become part of our weekly routines. For those who enjoy a more adventurous outdoor lifestyle though, camping or hiking around some of Minnesota’s incredible landscapes might be more your style.
Of course, with any physical activity comes some risk—and hiking is no exception. There are plenty of health hazards and dangerous situations you may run into while you’re trekking through wooded trails and up steep hills, so it’s important to have the proper knowledge to prevent sprained ankles, understand what type of bug repellent you should use, and more. We’ve prepared a hiking safety guide for you in order to ensure that you and your family have an enjoyable, memorable experience on the trail.
Before you head out on a hike, it’s critical to familiarize yourself with some of the most common injuries and dangers associated with hiking, especially if you are bringing children or going on a long hike. Dangers like dehydration or heatstroke can be extremely serious and may require immediate medical attention, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook any of the smaller risks! Here’s what to watch for.
Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion
The summer tends to bring temperatures that sometimes reach well over 90 degrees. When the
weather is hot, incidents of dehydration and heat exhaustion or heatstroke become more common. Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in and your body doesn’t have enough water or other fluids to use to carry out its normal functions. Both heat exhaustion and heatstroke can result from overexposure to extremely hot temperatures, and although only heatstroke can cause damage to the body’s internal functions, heat exhaustion shouldn’t be ignored.
If you believe that you are experiencing dehydration or heat exhaustion, you should immediately rest and rehydrate. If symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, muscle cramps, and nausea worsen or your body’s temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (putting you at risk of heatstroke), seek medical attention immediately.
Muscle cramps aren’t just a nuisance; they can cause severe pain. A muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles, which can develop from long periods of exercise in extreme heat. Typically, cramps can be treated with self-care measures and are often preventable. Ensure that you have and are drinking enough water before, during, and after your hike. You can also stretch thoroughly before you set off and while you’re cooling down to help lessen the risk of cramping.
Hiking carries a risk of falling or tripping. Rocks, tree roots, and other obstacles are easily overlooked and can lead to a tumble—and injury. Falling can result in a head injury, a sprained ankle or broken wrist, and lacerations or bruises. It’s important to stay aware of your surroundings at all times when hiking. Additionally, be sure to wear the proper shoes to improve your traction on slippery trails!
Wooded areas tend to have a higher population of bugs and in Minnesota, many hiking trails are fairly wooded. It’s imperative to be aware of mosquitoes, ticks, spiders, and other bugs that bite and can spread illnesses. Wearing bug spray, long sleeves, and a hat will go a long way in shielding you from biting or stinging insects.
Getting lost can be scary and dangerous, especially if you have children with you. You could wander off into an area that you are unfamiliar with and potentially be unable to find your way back. In a worst case scenario, you might find yourself wandering, running out of food or water, and becoming dehydrated or suffering from heatstroke. Research and understand the area you are hiking in, and keep trail maps with you at all times to avoid a search and rescue situation.
Hiking Safety Tips
With the proper safety precautions, hiking can be something fun for the whole family to enjoy. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be better able to hike safely and avoid injuries and dangers.
Do Your Research
Before you and your family head out on a hike, it’s essential to do your research. Brush up on your plant species, insects, and the general area in which you’ll be traveling. Having the proper knowledge will enable you to be prepared for unexpected events. If you’re heading to a park with a visitor center, stop in and speak to the park employees for more tips about the specific area.
Pack a Bag
Hiking is a strenuous activity, particularly when the weather is warm. You’ll need more water than usual, and if you’re going on an all-day hike, you will likely need some food. Pack a smaller backpack will with healthy snacks, such as protein bars or fruit that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, water, sunscreen, a first aid kit, bug spray, and an extra pair of clothes. While you don’t want to pack too much or too heavily, being prepared can really come in handy in the event of an emergency.
Take a Map
One thing you never want to do is leave your trail map behind. Getting lost can be very dangerous, especially if it gets late and the sun is starting to go down. Always have a trail map or other map, so you know where you’re going and how to get back to your car or campsite. You should also pack a compass to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, too.
Treat Hiking Injuries at The Urgency Room
Hiking can be a fun summer activity, but it doesn’t come without risk. If you or someone you’ve been hiking with gets injured, head to your nearest Urgency Room to be treated. Spend less time in the waiting room and more time with a board-certified emergency room physician who will diagnose you quickly and properly. We are conveniently open 365 days a year in Eagan, Vadnais Heights, or Woodbury.