Before you pack your bags and go tramping off for a trek through the rainforest or a hike up Mt Everest, here are a few things you need to be aware of. Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Read on, this may save your trip and save you a very unwanted visit to a local hospital.
The 5 Health Tips for Adventure Trips:
1. Cold and Hypothermia
Cold is probably the most understated danger when travelling. It is not normal to feel cold. It is not normal to shiver. Don’t tell yourself “It’s cold of course I shiver.” You can easily slip into hypothermia without realizing it. If you start feeling tired and sleepy, start losing concentration and cannot keep up with your fellow climbers/adventurers, it is likely you are suffering from hypothermia.
- Make sure you are dressed adequately to prevent your body from losing too much heat. Remember, if you feel cold, put on more layers.
- Make sure you are eating and drinking enough. Your body burns calories to keep warm and you need to ensure your body has enough calories to do so.
If you see one of your mates getting the symptoms of hypothermia, you should:
- Immediately arrange for evacuation.
- Lie him down horizontal preferably with the head slightly down to allow blood to flow to his brain.
- Cover him with whatever insulating material your have.
- If he is conscious enough, encourage him to sip hot fluids.
You do not need to feel cold or suffer from hypothermia to get frostbite. The tips of our noses, fingers, toes, ears, chin etc receive less blood to warm them and therefore are more prone to frostbite. By the time you experience symptoms like pain, it may already be too late. The way to prevent frostbite is to be aware of the possibility and not let it have the chance to happen.
- Wear protective clothing that covers your ears and nose. Wear gloves and thick socks.
- Change out of wet clothing as soon as you can.
- Be extra cautious when there is wind chill.
If you or your fellow travellers start feeling pain in your fingers, toes, ears, noses etc:
- Protect, insulate and re-warm the affected area
Snakebites can be completely harmless to very deadly. The best thing you can do is to prevent it. The only treatment for snake bites is a specific anti-venom which may be in a hospital miles away from your location.
- If you can, walk on trails and not through bushes.
- Wear long pants, high stockings and boots.
If you or one of your mates get bitten, you should:
- Rest. A slow heart rate spreads the venom more slowly.
- Immobilize the affected limb. Moving the limb increases blood flow and increases the speed of the venom spreading.
- Apply a tourniquet 4 inches above the snake bite. Remember to remove the tourniquet every 10 minutes if not you risk causing gangrene of the limb. If you are not familiar with putting on a tourniquet, it may be better if you did not.
Leeches are usually found in tropical climates. So they are a danger if you are trekking through the rainforest especially crossing streams and swamps.
- Make sure every inch of your body is covered with thick clothing.
- Wear thick socks
- Wear long pants and tie the pant leg at your ankles.
- Wear long sleeve shirts.
- Apply salt on exposed areas like your hands
If you notice a leech on yourself or on one of your mates you should either:
- Wait for the leech to finish feeding and it will fall off on its own.
- OR apply salt on it and it will fall off.
What you should NOT do is to try to pull the leech off. This may leave some teeth stuck in your skin.
5. Altitude Sickness
When you travel to altitudes of 3,000m (10,000 ft) or more, you may suffer from altitude sickness also known as mountain sickness. This is due to the body reacting to the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. The risk is higher if you ascend faster. Mild symptoms include headache, nausea and reduced effort tolerance. But altitude sickness can become severe enough to be life threatening. The 2 dangerous conditions are:
- High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
- Danger signs include breathlessness, cough and blue lips.
- High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
- Danger signs include drowsiness, loss of balance and change in personality/behaviour.
- Gradual ascent with rest days every 3,000 ft.
- Certain drugs like Acetazolamide and Dexamethasone can be used to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
If you notice any of your fellow travellers have any of the above symptoms, evacuate him to a lower altitude immediately and arrange for a proper evacuation to a hospital.
Prevention is always better than cure. Always be too careful, too safe and too aware. It will literally save your life and limb.
Share this information with your fellow travelers so that you can watch out for each other.